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Lest we think that Scott Fetzer s growth has been inappropriately deemphasized, we should not forget that Buffett can use the dividends received in any way he wants The capital allocation job for Berkshire as a whole is in Buffett s hands In that sense, growth from the dividends received from Scott Fetzer can occur in another company, giving higher rates of return to Berkshire shareholders, who are the ultimate owners of Scott Fetzer A brief examination of other similar Berkshire subsidiaries is presented next
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Shaw Industries, Marmon, and McLane
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Several other Berkshire subsidiaries are also from honest-to-goodness traditional industries We get like insights from the way Buffett manages these subsidiaries In Table 132, I present the pro tability numbers of one subsidiary because it is a relatively recent acquisition, and its major numbers are available from various Berkshire annual reports Shaw Industries is a leading manufacturer and distributor of carpets and rugs for residential and commercial use Berkshire acquired 873 percent of the company in 2001 and the remaining 127 percent in 2002 In total, Berkshire paid $24 billion2 Shaw s revenues and earnings climbed steadily from 2001 to 2006 but declined in 2007 and 2008 as the housing market collapsed (Dividend numbers are not available) Identi able assets also increased as the demand for Shaw s products rose during the booming housing market In terms of return on Berkshire s investment of $24 billion, the average level of annual return from 2002 to 2008 is about 15 percent after accounting for taxes This is certainly a very healthy return because the investment in Shaw should be considered relatively safe from a long-term perspective It is dif cult to imagine that the market for carpets will go away and that a well-managed, dominant company will not remain pro table for a long time In the cases of both Scott Fetzer and Shaw, the CEOs in charge at the time of the acquisitions were not replaced Ralph Schey at Scott Fetzer continued as the CEO for 14 more years, and Robert E Shaw continued as the CEO for six more years Neither of them left the companies they managed for another position, but retired
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High Pro ts in Honest-to-Goodness Manufacturing Companies 141
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Table 132 Shaw Industries: Pro tability and Growth after Berkshire s Acquisition of Shaw
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Earnings Earnings before taxes as before a percentage Revenues taxes of revenues Earnings before taxes as a percentage of identi able assets at year-end
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2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Average
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In 2008, Berkshire acquired 60 percent of Marmon Holdings, which consists of 130 manufacturing and service businesses that operate independently within 11 diverse business sectors The products range from nuts and bolts, wire, and cable to shopping carts and railroad tank cars The remaining 40 percent will be acquired in future years for consideration to be based on the future earnings of Marmon From limited data that are available, I surmise that pro tability is highly satisfactory at about 10 percent operating income on tangible assets I also examined similar numbers for McLane Company, which was acquired by Berkshire in May 2003 McLane is one of the nation s largest wholesale distributors of groceries and nonfood items to convenience and discount stores The after-tax return on the initial Berkshire investment of $15 billion has been about 10 percent per year, on average For 2008, earnings before taxes were $276 million, which is about 18 percent before taxes or about 11 percent after taxes Chances are its earnings will grow with time even without additional Berkshire investment One reason for its growth potential is that, when McLane was a Wal-Mart subsidiary, it was not viewed as an independent distributor by Wal-Mart s competitors Many of the potential customers would then not buy from
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