Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Best companies to invest in

Positive attributes to look for

So long as ROE is not overly leveraged by too much interest-bearing debt, the best companies in which to invest have a high ROE and a proven ability to reinvest a good proportion of profits without negatively affecting their ROE.

A company with a high ROE that distributes all, or close to all, profits is telling you that while it's a good business, it lacks the opportunity to grow. For instance, the sole local newspaper might be highly profitable by virtue of its monopoly, but opportunities to start a new paper or to buy an existing paper at a favourable price are likely to be rare. Profit growth is therefore limited to circulation growth. Such companies have the investment characteristics of an interest-bearing security - yield, but little or no growth - and must be valued accordingly.

Businesses that have historically long-term high ROEs with a high reinvestment rate have a sustainable competitive advantage that is difficult to duplicate. They have established brand-name products or services, patent rights, an established market niche or an innovative business model.

Although businesses with these qualities will not be selling at bargain prices, we can afford to pay a premium for a great business and still achieve a high return in the long term. The club of great businesses is not a closed shop, so watch out for new additions among smaller, less recognized companies that display these attributes.

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