Throwback Thursday – Dole Investment Analysis Case Study Part 2

Throwback Thursday – Dole Investment Analysis Case Study Part 2


This is the seventh post in our new Throwback Thursday’s Series, where we share with you posts from the past blogs to bring you as much value as possible.

Today, we’re continuing the case study on Dole from articles in 2012 and 2013.

In Part 1, I valued Dole and compared it to its competition.

Today, we’re going to see what my evaluation in Part 1 led to in only 104 days before we get to some of the more important case study aspects on Dole.

I researched and wrote extensively about Dole when I began doing ‘real’ investment research in 2012.

I’m going to be reposting a series of my past research and investment articles on Dole beginning today.

They’re a great case study in doing deep work. Here are some of the things we’ll be looking at in this series…

  • HOW to find the value of potentially hundreds of millions or billions of dollars worth of hidden assets
  • The signs of a company potentially having hidden value
  • Doing deep work to find the value of these and other things people won’t look for
  • Valuations and how and why I’ve done these valuations
  • And more…

I hope you enjoy this series and know we can all learn a lot from doing this.

Oh and please excuse the poor writing style and huge paragraphs. I wrote this in 2012 before I learned how to write.

As always, nothing is changed below from the past article in 2012.



Closed out partial position in Dole up almost 70% in Just 104 days

Dole spiked up more than $2 per share at one point and ended closing today up $1.21 per share or 9.42% on the following news, the quoted text is from The Wall Street Journal Online:

Dole Food Co. Inc. said Wednesday it is in advanced discussions with Japanese trading house Itochu Corp. for the possible sale of its packaged-foods and Asian fresh fruit and vegetable businesses.

The California-based company, said no definitive agreements have been reached, and it continues to be in discussions with several other parties regarding these and other assets.

Dole said it divulged the talks in response to market rumors. Japanese business news provider Nikkei reported that Itochu is poised to purchase the U.S. firm’s businesses for as much as $1.7 billion.

Dole launched a strategic review of its businesses in May after reporting a slump in profits. The company said in July that it was considering a full or partial separation of one or more of its business, including potential spin offs, joint ventures and sales transactions.

Dole’s second-quarter profit fell 21% as the company saw lower fresh-fruit revenue, though sales of fresh vegetables and packaged foods improved.

After the news came out, I sold just under half of the position I bought for a couple people’s money that I manage, cost basis around $8.50 per share sold around $14.50 per share, or up around 66% in just over 100 days since I bought it for them. Here is the link to my first article about Dole that got published on June 13th on Seeking Alpha.

Dole Is Undervalued, Could Be A Winner From Spin-Off Or Asset Sale

I sold about half of the position because most of the margin of safety is gone and I wanted to lock in some profits in case the deal ends up falling through with Itochu.

I kept just over half the position because I valued Dole at the very low end at $18.25 per share and as high as $48.93 per share in June. I also kept about half of the position because if any of the potential deals do go through then Dole will be able to pay off most, if not all of its massive debt which is Dole’s biggest problem at this time. Also, if it is able to pay off most or all of its debt, it could possibly start to grow its operations which could also help the share price.

Sometime in the near future I am going to start working on an updated Dole article and apply the knowledge and techniques I have learned from the original article.


From here, things take a bit of an unexpected turn for the worst when it comes to this companies management and going private transaction.

P.S. I put on a FREE webinar last month teaching The 3 Secrets That Have Helped Me Beat Buffett In The Stock Market, so you can possibly do the same. If you’d like to sign up for FREE to view the replay of the webinar, you can do so here.

P.P.S  Make sure to check out the brand new Value Investing Journey Training Vault here to gain access to $10,000 training sessions for as little as $97 a month.

Throwback Thursday – Dole Investment Analysis Case Study Part 1

Throwback Thursday – Dole Investment Analysis Case Study Part 1


This is the sixth post in our new Throwback Thursday’s Series, where we share with you posts from the past blogs to bring you as much value as possible.

Today, I’m beginning a series on Dole in these Throwback Thursday posts.

I researched and wrote extensively about Dole when I began doing ‘real’ investment research in 2012.

I’m going to be reposting a series of my past research and investment articles on Dole beginning today.

They’re a great case study in doing deep work.  Here are some of the things we’ll be looking at in this series…

  • HOW to find the value of potentially hundreds of millions or billions of dollars worth of hidden assets
  • The signs of a company potentially having hidden value
  • Doing deep work to find the value of these and other things people won’t look for
  • Valuations and how and why I’ve done these valuations
  • And more

I hope you enjoy this series and know we can all learn a lot from doing this.

Oh and please excuse the poor writing style and huge paragraphs. I wrote this in 2012 before I learned how to write.

As always, nothing is changed below from the past article in 2012.



This article is the fourth and final article in the series detailing the businesses of Dole (DOLE), Chiquita (CQB), and Fresh Del Monte (FDP). If you want to see the valuations and brief descriptions of these companies, please view these articles: DOLE, CQB, and FDP.

In this article, I will go over the margins of all the companies to determine if there are any sustainable competitive advantages. I will decide whether I would buy any of these companies as they currently stand, without the possibility of any kind of merger, spin off, or massive asset sales. I will also look into whether or not a merger between any of the companies would be a good thing.

Before I start with my analysis of the three, I need to go back and look into Dole’s total contractual obligations in comparison to Chiquita’s and Fresh Del Monte’s. At the time I’ve done Dole’s valuations, I wasn’t doing as thorough of research as I am doing now, and did not talk about their total obligations in the original article I wrote.

On page 40 of Dole’s 2011 10K, they list their total obligations and commitments as of December 31, 2011. The total obligations and commitments, including debt, is $4.68 billion, and over the next two years it comes out to $2.661 billion. Their current market cap is $765 million. Not a great ratio, but not terrible like Chiquita’s. The total obligations / market cap ratios for all of the companies are:

  • Dole: 4680/765=6.12
  • Chiquita: 3167/220=14.40
  • Fresh Del Monte: 1992/1310=1.52

Fresh Del Monte has by far the most sustainable ratio in my mind and should have no problems if another crisis hits them individually or the economy as a whole. Dole might be able to make it through another crisis, even if they don’t decide to do some kind of asset sale or spin off like they are looking into right now. Chiquita’s ratio is horrendous and I would be worried about them if I was a shareholder of theirs.

All of these companies have low amounts of cash and cash equivalents on hand, which is another thing to possibly worry about with Dole and Chiquita if something bad were to happen in the economy. In any kind of emergency, they would most likely either default on some of their obligations, have to draw down their credit facilities, or try to take on some more debt if they could, most likely on unfavorable terms.

Now, let us get to the margins of all three and try to determine if any of them have a competitive advantage.

Dole (DOLE) Chiquita (CQB) Fresh Del Monte (FDP)
Gross Margin (Current) 10.5 12.9 8.8
Gross Margin (5 years ago) 9 12.4 10.8
Gross Margin (10 years ago) 16 16.1 16.1
Op Margin (Current) 2.7 -0.3 3
Op Margin (5 years ago) 1.9 0.7 5.2
Op Margin (10 years ago) 6.5 2.2 10.3
Net Margin (Current) 0.75 0.69 2.84
Net Margin (5 years ago) -0.83 -1.05 5.34
Net Margin (10 years ago) 0.83 0.91 9.34
FCF/Sales (Current) -0.58 0.12 2.66
FCF/Sales (5 years ago) N/A -0.08 2.42
FCF/Sales (10 years ago) N/A 2.37 11.86
BV Per Share (Current) $9.30 $17.42 $30.41
BV Per Share (5 years ago) N/A $21.03 $23.65
BV Per Share (10 years ago) N/A $15.80 $13.51
ROIC (Current) 2.16 1.53 5.21
ROIC (5 years ago) -2.12 -2.72 11.66
ROIC (10 years ago) 1.98 1.63 22.56
Insider Ownership (Current) 59.06% 3.33% 35.72%

These companies, for the most part, all have operations in the same segments and the next table will be showing the margins of those comparable operations.

Dole Chiquita Fresh Del Monte
Total Fresh Fruit EBIT 172 N/A N/A
Total Fresh Fruit Revenues 5,024 N/A 2,721
Fresh Fruit EBIT Margin 3.42% N/A N/A
Total Vegetable EBIT 31 N/A N/A
Total Vegetable Revenues 1,002 N/A 523
Vegetable EBIT Margin 3.10% N/A N/A
Packaged Food EBIT 96.5 N/A N/A
Packaged Food Revenues 1,197 N/A 355
Packaged Food EBIT Margin 8.10% N/A N/A
Total Operations EBIT 300 33.7 116
Total Operations Revenues 7,224 3,139 3,590
Total EBIT Margin 4.15% 1.07% 3.23%

In a perfect world Chiquita and Fresh Del Monte would have broken their operations out further like Dole does. Instead they choose to combine their operations reporting data, especially the Operating Margin data, otherwise known as EBIT. So at this point, it is impossible for me to break out the data further than it is in the above table.

Taking the above information, combined with the information in the previous articles, I think that I have enough information to make some judgments on the companies.

As things currently stand, I would NOT buy Chiquita under any circumstance, not even with the possibility of a spin off or asset sale. Their low margins, combined with their huge amount of total obligations, and low cash on hand, scare me too much to invest in them. That is not even taking into account the fact that, in my valuations, I found them to be about fairly valued to slightly undervalued, not nearly enough of a margin of safety for me considering all the risks. I also do not see them being bought out by anyone due to their high amount of total obligations. The only thing going in their favor is that they are selling for less than book value by a good margin, which is currently $17.42 per share, but at this point it looks to be justified.

Fresh Del Monte is interesting. They are selling for less than book value by a good margin, which is currently at $30.41 per share, they generally have the best margins of the three companies, and they also have high insider ownership, which I always love. However, by my estimates they appear to be slightly overvalued at this point, and have low cash on hand. They are also the company out of the three in the best position to make some acquisitions: in my opinion, a merger between Dole and Fresh Del Monte could possibly be a good thing. They have already been buying back a lot of shares and are the only one out of the three to pay a dividend, which are more pluses. At this point, I am not going to buy Fresh Del Monte, but I will wait for an opportunity when they are undervalued and will reassess at that time whether or not I will be a buyer then.

Without the possibility of a spin off or asset sale that I outlined in my original article on Dole, I would not be a buyer into their company right now either.  Pretty much the same problems as Chiquita: high debt / total obligations, low cash, low overall margins. However, they do have high inside ownership, they are selling at a slight discount to book value, and by my valuations are extremely undervalued. I do stick to my original assessment about Dole though, that they are a great spin off opportunity if they decide to do a spin off or asset sale. If they do what I suggested in the original article I think they could unlock value, get rid of a lot of their debt, and become a much more focused and profitable company. Especially if they put a lot of their resources into the packaged fruit portion of the business, as it has the highest margins in Dole’s operating structure. Dole also has the 88,000 acres of land that they could sell some of to pay down debts as well.

I did buy half of a position in Dole based on the spin off thesis in my original article. I am waiting to see if they announce a spin off or asset sale to jump fully into Dole at this point. They are in the spin off portion of my portfolio which I plan to hold for 6 months to several years. I do not consider them a long term buy and hold for decades company.

It also appears to me that none of the companies have any kind of sustainable competitive advantage, with their wildly fluctuating margins over the past 10 years, and no one becoming dominant.

I hope everyone has enjoyed and learned something from the analysis and valuation series on Dole, Chiquita, and Fresh Del Monte, and I look forward to some feedback.


P.S  If you want to get every post like this in the future, please subscribe for free here.

P.P.S. I put on a FREE webinar last Thursday teaching The 3 Secrets That Have Helped Me Beat Buffett In The Stock Market, so you can possibly do the same. If you’d like to sign up for FREE to view the replay of the webinar, you can do so here.

33% Off Everything In the Value Investing Journey Shop Until Tuesday

33% Off Everything In the Value Investing Journey Shop

Value Investing Journey Logo
Value Investing Journey

While I announced the opening of the Value Investing Journey Shop last month, because I’ve been so busy I didn’t announce it to many people.

To make up for that oversight, I’m offering 33% off everything in the Value Investing Journey Shop for the next three days only.

This includes all issues and the All Past Press On Research issues package where you get all past issues for one set price.

This means for the next three days you can pick the individual issues you want most for $65 instead of the regular $97.

And that you can get All the Past Press On Research issues in one package for $628 versus a normal price of $997.

33% off all items in the Value Investing Journey Shop until Tuesday

But only until Tuesday…

I won’t do discounts often – if at all in the future – so if you’ve wanted to see my latest stock recommendation issues at a discount you better buy them now.

As of this writing, each pick is up a combined average of 50.3%.  And these picks are crushing the market.

Below are some of the highlights from all the issues…

  • The average gain for all 12 recommendations is 50.3% as of this writing…  These picks are crushing the stock market since April 2015.
  • As of this writing, the stock market has only produced a 15.8% return.
  • Meaning, my picks since April 2015 have outperformed the stock market by 34.5 percentage points.
  • Two companies I recommended grew from sub $500 million market caps to $1 billion plus market caps as of this writing.
  • One company as of this writing has now surpassed a $2 billion market cap since I recommended them.

So you’re probably wondering what you have to do to get the coupon code.  And the answer to that is nothing…

The coupon code is – 33%OffGrandOpening

The discount won’t show up until you input the code when the item is in your cart as you’re getting ready to check out.  So make sure to put the coupon code in before you hit the payment button or you’ll have to pay full price.

You can go to the Shop here and begin getting your deals now.

And this is the only place to see my most recent stock recommendation issues.

If you have any questions contact me using the Drift App – the blue icon in the bottom right third of the page – to message me through this site and I’ll get back to you right away.

Happy shopping smart value investors.

2016 Performance Review – Five Full Years Beating Buffett and Crushing The Market

2016 Performance Review – Five Full Years Beating Buffett and Crushing The Market

The above quote from Benjamin Graham is one of my favorites.

It means in the short-term emotion and psychology drive the market.  But in the long-term the market – and individual stocks – get judged on how well they’ve operated and grown over time.

This is great news for us as long-term oriented value investors.

If we can find a few great companies at cheap to fair prices and hold them for the long-term, we’ll have great returns over time.  Why?  Because…

“Time is the friend of the wonderful company, the enemy of the mediocre.”  Warren Buffett

With this as a backdrop, below is the 2016 performance review.

For links to 20122013, 2013 updated numbers, and 2014 and 2015 performance reviews go to the previous links…

Also, as noted above I made multiple mistakes in 2013 when calculating my returns.  The numbers below – which show the five full years between 2012 and 2016 – are correct.

2016 Performance Review

The hard work, extreme patience, discipline, and low returns from 2014 and 2015 paid off in 2016.

I only bought and recommended three new companies all year for the portfolios I manage and for Press On Research subscribers.

But the companies I still own from 2014 and 2015, combined with the three new recommendations in 2016, produced a fantastic 32.8% return on average in 2016.

Here are the highlights…

  • One of the companies I recommended while working at the investment newsletter got bought in 2016.
  • Another company I recommended to Press On Research subscribers merged with its parent in 2016.
  • Another two Press On Research picks from 2015 more than doubled in 2016.
  • None of the 12 total picks I’ve made for Press On Research were down in 2016.
  • At the time of their recommendations, all companies were well below $1 billion in market cap.
  • I now own two companies – the two that more than doubled – that are worth more than $1 billion in terms of market cap.
  • The average market cap at the time of my 12 recommendations was $246.4 million.
  • The average market cap of the 11 companies I still own – not including company that got bought – is now $413.3 million.

Below is the full spreadsheet…

2016 VIJ and POR Performance Review

If you’d like to know what the companies are you need to subscribe to Press On Research.  And remember Value Investing Journey free subscribers get a 50% discount on a Press On Research subscription.  If you’re a Press On Research subscriber I’m sending an unedited version of the spreadsheet your way.

What does this mean for cumulative full five-year returns now?

Five Full Years Beating Buffett…

I don’t compare myself to Buffett because I want to be the next Buffett.  But because everyone knows who he is as he’s regarded by most at the best investor ever.

I want to be known as the first Jason Rivera when my career is over.  At the end I want to be known as a better investor and capital allocator than Buffett and to produce better returns over time than he has.

At least for now – five full years into my career – I am achieving this lofty goal by beating Buffett when compared to the first five years of his career.

In the first five years of my career I’ve now produced average – non-compounded – returns of 29.7% each year.  Or a total cumulative return of 148.3% over that period.

In the first five years of his career Buffett produced average – non-compounded – returns of 25.4% each year.  Or a total cumulative return of 126.9% over that period.

This means in the first five years of our careers I’ve produced returns 4.3 percentage points better each year than Buffett did in the first five years of his career.

But what does this 4.3 percentage point excess return per year mean in dollar terms over this period?

Assuming we both started with an asset base of $10 million at the beginning of the five-year period I would have grown that $10 million into $36.7 million after five years.  Buffett would have turned his investors $10 million into $31 million in that time.

This is why every point of excess returns is so important.  And why you need to be aware of any fees charged to your account by your money managers.

Over a long period – or in this case five years – “only” an excess 4.3 percentage points each year would have made investors $5.7 million extra.

Not only am I achieving my lofty goal of beating Buffett through this time, but I’m also crushing the market as well.

And Crushing The Market

From 2012 through 2016 the Dow Jones Index produced a total cumulative return of 37.4% for the five years or 7.5% per year on average.

The S&P 500 produced a 43.2% total return for the five years or 8.6% per year on average.

And the Russell 3000 index – closest thing to a small cap index – produced a 43.5% total return or 8.7% per year on average.

I’ve produced returns in excess of these indexes by 21%, 21.1%, and 22.2% points each year over these five years.

Assuming a $10 million asset base I would have produced $21.5 million more for investors over this five-year period than the Russell 3000 index would have.

  • $36.7 million minus $15.2 million the Russell 3000 would have produced.

I started posting my results publicly in 2012 because this is when I began doing “real”, in-depth, investment research and analysis instead of speculating.

Results have been great thus far…  Better than I expected… But there’s still a lot of work and improvement necessary to continue this.

Other Highlights From 2016

Thanks to sales of How To Value Invest and Press On Research subscribers we continued helping Mhicaella and her family in the Philippines.

The last letter we received from her mother told us that Mhicaella is now in kindergarten.  She loves P.E., singing, and drawing, and is learning to read and write so she can begin writing letters to us soon.

Here is a recent picture of Mhicaella…

Mhicaella Picture

With your help, some of the things we’ve been able to help provide for her and her family over the last year are school supplies, medical and dental care, and Christmas gifts for her entire family.

A percentage of all sales of my books, services, and products sold will continue going towards charities like these well into the future.  And I plan to expand and sponsor more kids and families in 2017 now that Rivera Holdings is up and running.

Thank you so much for helping with this.


Other highlights from 2016 are:

  • Started Rivera Holdings LLC.
  • Began raising capital.
  • Grew personal connections by an exponential amount due to capital raising efforts.
  • Grew from 320 subscribers between Value Investing Journey and Press On Research to now 455 total subscribers between those two services and now also the Rivera Holdings Mailing List.
  • Read between 50 and 75 books this year.
  • Grew from 720 followers on Twitter as of the beginning of 2016 to 1,008 now.
  • Grew from 790 connections on LinkedIn as of the beginning of 2016 to 896 now.
  • As mentioned above we continued helping Mhicaella and her family in the Philippines survive and thrive.
  • For the first time in three years expanded my circle of competence in terms of industries.  I now understand and feel comfortable evaluating three new industries – marinas, hotels, and multifamily real estate.
  • Also expanded knowledge and experience into the private equity/investment arena as well.

Conclusion Thoughts

As mentioned above the patience of the last two years paid off this year in a big way.  Going forward I wouldn’t expect results to continue this trend.

Due to the still ever rising market and valuations it’s become harder to find great cheap companies to buy.  I only recommended three companies in 2016 and all those were in the beginning of the year before the market took off again.

Barring a major sell off I expect to add few to no companies again in 2017.

As I’ve mentioned already mentioned to Press On Research subscribers I will only buy something that meets my ultra-strict criteria.  Under no circumstances will I buy something because I haven’t bought in a while.

This helps keep us only in great companies and should help us continue producing exceptional returns over time.

No matter what the market continues to do though over time I’m confident we’ll continue to beat the market by a wide margin.  And continue to compound our wealth over time.

I’m still raising capital for my new investment holding company so if you’d like more information about how you can invest with me and the market-crushing returns I’ve produced thus far email me at, call me at 605-390-3157, or sign up for the Rivera Holdings mailing list.

As always 2016 wasn’t all great news…

Up next will be a post detailing my major failures in 2016.


Here’s looking forward to an even bigger and better 2017.

Thanks so much for everyone who’s been a part of this journey so far.  And please let me know how I can continue to improve things going forward in the comments below.

Jason Rivera

Chairman, CEO, and Founder of Rivera Holdings LLC

April 2016 Press On Research Issue

April 2016 Press On Research Issue

Below is an excerpt from the unfinished 40 page April 2016 Press On Research issue to release exclusive to subscribers tomorrow April 19th.  If you’d like to subscribe to Press On Research go to the links above or below.

Press On Research High Def

Investing In The Greatest Investment Secret In The World Again

To Earn Up To 71%

April 2016 Press On Research Issue

By Jason Rivera

Press On Research Volume 2 Issue 1

If you ever think of insurance companies like I do – yes I know this is odd 🙂 – one of the first things that may come to mind is catastrophes.

Everything I’ve ever read about the business of insurance has talked about catastrophes both natural and manmade.  And how insurance companies lessen the risks of these disasters.

Disaster is the business of insurance.  But insurance companies insure against risk to protect clients.  And reinsures against them to protect themselves from financial disaster.

Until humans can control hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, death, theft, floods, health issues, and other disasters the business of insurance will be a great one to invest in.

And I love investing in businesses that should remain great for generations.

This is one of the many reasons I love insurance companies.  And today this is the industry we’re heading back to again.

As an investor I try to stay away from risk as much as possible but the entire insurance industry is based on the probabilities of risk.  When something bad will happen not if it will happen.

There’s no way to avoid risk in insurance.  This is because the business of insurance is all about shifting risk to other parties so you’re not crushed when disaster strikes.

When investing in insurance companies you have to make sure the company reserves its premiums well and conservatively.  That you can trust management to keep doing this.  And that management is more focused on underwriting profits than growing revenue.

These are the most important things when evaluating insurance companies.  Because if a company doesn’t do these things well it will go out of business at some point.

Today’s pick does all these well.

It’s a (MARKET CAP REMOVED) million life and property and casualty insurer that pays a 1% dividend.  Is undervalued by 28.8% to 71%. Has produced an underwriting profit in six of the last nine years.  And has produced cumulative redundancies every year of the last nine.

I’ll explain all this below but it’s all great.  And this isn’t all that’s great about the company.

Its float supports 3.49 times its operating assets or 349% of its operating assets.  And its float is also better than cost-free because of the company’s ability to consistently produce underwriting profits.

This acts as a better than cost-free loan the company can use to invest and grow the business.

Another advantage we have over other investors is that we’re willing and love to invest in insurance companies.  Most others hate this business.

Investing In Insurance Part 2

Most people won’t research insurance companies.  I wouldn’t early in my investing journey.  And many professional analysts stay away too.

This is because insurance companies are hard to understand at first.  Have new and confusing terminology to learn.  And normal profit metrics don’t matter for them.

But if you learn how to evaluate them not only will you learn they’re easy to evaluate once you know what you’re doing.  But you can use the same repeatable process on every insurance company.

And Buffett has continued to buy into insurance – his favorite industry – constantly over the decades.  This is one reason he’s so successful.

In reality insurance companies are easy to understand.

Insurance companies take premiums as payment for insuring things like businesses, equipment, health, life, etc.  Premiums are the insurance version of revenue.

The insurance company doesn’t have to pay you a dime of the money it earns over the years until there’s some kind of damage or theft of whatever’s insured.

When this happens they pay the agreed upon insurance rate out to the policyholder minus a deductible from you when you make a claim.

While the company continues to earn money – premiums again – it invests some of it so it can pay back your policy in the future.  And also make a profit in excess of the amount earned, invested, and paid out.

If the company writes its policies and invests well over time it will earn underwriting profits.  This is the main profitability metric to care about when evaluating insurance companies.  And grow the assets it can use to write policies and invest more money.

When done well this can turn into a virtuous circle for insurance companies and shareholders producing great profits and returns for both.

When done poorly this can also turn into a negative cycle for those involved.

If it doesn’t do things well the company will go out of business when a major disaster strikes.

Think of insurance companies like investment management companies.  But instead of only earning management fees insurance companies earn underwriting profits on top of investment earnings.

These effects can double profits over time…  If management is great at what they do.

The insurance business while easy to understand is one of the hardest businesses to be great at.

Other than being a low-cost operator like GEICO owned by Berkshire Hathaway.  There are no competitive advantages in this industry.  And it also experiences wild swings of huge profitability than massive losses on a regular basis.

But if the company writes policies and invests money well over a long period they can grow to great sizes at almost no extra costs.  The only new costs may be to hire more staff.

Insurance companies also hold the greatest secret in the investment world…  Float.  This is how Buffett built his fortune.  And how we’ll start to build ours.

But before we get to this we need to know why float is so important.

Brief Berkshire Hathaway History

Buffett began buying Berkshire Hathaway stock in 1962 when it was still a textile manufacturer.  And when he still ran his investment partnership.

He bought Berkshire stock because it was cheap compared to the assets it had.  Even though the company was losing money.

He continued to pour millions of dollars into Berkshire to keep up with foreign and non-union competition.  But none of this worked.

In time Buffett realized he was never going to make a profit again in the textile industry.  So whatever excess funds Berkshire produced he started buying other companies.

The first insurance company Berkshire Hathaway bought was National Indemnity Company in 1967.

Since then Berkshire’s float grew from $39 million in 1970 to $84 billion in 2014.

Float compounds like interest does if you use and invest it well.  But not only does float compound, if you use it well it also compounds the value of the company that owns the float.

Since buying National Indemnity in 1967 Berkshire’s stock price has risen from $20.50 a share to today’s price of $210,130.  Or a total gain of 10,250%.

This is the power of insurance companies when operated well.  And today’s recommendation is an insurance company that operates the right way too.

But before we get to that I need to explain how float makes this possible.

The Biggest Investment Secret Revealed Part 2

‘Float is money that doesn’t belong to us, but that we temporarily hold.”  Warren Buffett

Float is things like prepaid expenses.  Billings in excess of expected earnings.  Deferred taxes.  Accounts payable.  Unearned premiums.   And other liabilities that don’t require interest payments.

But they are the farthest thing from “normal” liabilities.

With normal liabilities you have to pay an agreed upon amount within a certain period or your customers and suppliers will stop paying you.

Float are things you won’t have to pay back for a while the company uses in the mean time to grow the business.

Instead of paying this money out now like normal liabilities.  Companies can use these “liabilities” to fund current operations.

Float is positive leverage instead of negative leverage like debt and interest payments.

Think of float as the opposite of paying interest on a loan.  Instead of paying the bank for the cash you’ve borrowed.  The bank pays you interest to use the money you loaned.  And you can use this money to invest.

A nice example is long-term debt versus unpaid premiums.  Both liabilities listed on the balance sheet.  But each is far different from a real world perspective.

With long-term debt you get money in exchange for agreeing to pay back to loan at an agreed upon rate for an agreed upon period.  If you don’t you can go into bankruptcy and/or go out of business.

With unpaid premiums you get paid a monthly amount from a customer – say for house insurance – and only have to pay back any amount when a disaster occurs.

If your clients don’t make big claims for a long time – or ever over the life of an individual policy – the company keeps using this “liability” to continue investing and growing the business.

Now let’s keep going with this example…

If you own a home with a mortgage you have home insurance in the United States.  The ranges of this vary but let’s say you own a home and pay $300 a month towards home insurance costs.

This $300 a month – $3,600 a year or $36,000 after 10 years – goes to the insurance company every month.  Year after year even if you never claim any insurance.

The insurance company holds this money on the balance sheet as a liability because the assumption – probability – is you’ll make an insurance claim at some point.

In the mean time the insurance company invests this money to grow assets.  This way it makes sure it has enough money to pay claims when it has to.

Now imagine this multiplied by thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of customers.

If the insurance company produces underwriting profits on top of the float it gets and invests this money well over a long period this money compounds exponentially.

This is how Buffett and Munger grew Berkshire to the giant it is today.

Using better than cost-free float to fund operations can improve margins by up to a few percentage points each.  And this happens when a company produces consistent underwriting profits.

The best way to explain why float is so important is with the following quote:

“Leaving the question of price aside, the best business to own is one that over an extended period can employ large amounts of free – other peoples money – in highly productive assets so that return on owners capital becomes exceptional.”  Professor Sanjay Bakshi adding to something Warren Buffett said about great businesses.

I said in a past issue: “When a company’s float/operating assets ratio is above 100% it means the company is operating with “free” or cost-free money.”

But this isn’t true with insurance companies.

For an insurance company to operate on a cost-free basis it has to produce underwriting profits for a sustained period.

I look for underwriting profits of at least five years straight to consider its float cost-free.

And the company I’m going to tell you about today has earned an underwriting profit in six of the last nine years.

Cost-free float and the power of positive leverage it generates is explained more in my posts in a still ongoing series about float:

When you come across companies that generate all the above on a consistent basis you should expect exceptional returns in the future.

This is because when a company operates its entire business on a cost-free basis it means several things. 1)  It’s a great business.  2.)  It’s an efficient business.  And 3.) That float magnifies margins which will compound value in the company for shareholders over time.

So what is the wonderful company that checks all my – and Buffett’s – marks for a great insurance company?  But also fits into the criteria of Press On Research focusing on small companies?


I go on from here to reveal and detail the company in full in this 40 page issue.  I also compare it to a past Press On Research pick and some of its competitors

To find out what this great company is subscribe to Press On Research.

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