Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wrigley/Mars passes Warren Buffett's taste test

The merger of Mars Inc with Wrigley Jr Company and Warren Buffett's interest in helping fund the purchase, and having a subsequent minority stake in the merged company, to be held by his Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle, is Warren Buffett in his element.

Wrigley and Mars as one, will make the largest confectionery business in the world and its combined brands, like Mars chocolate bars, Snickers, Doublemint and Juicyfruit will make Buffett a very happy man indeed.

Warren Buffett already owns outright or portions of some of the worlds biggest food, consumer and beverage brands: Coca Cola, Gillette, MacDonald's and America's Sees Candies among them.

He sees in Mars/Wrigley what he sees in his other holdings, companies and brands with strong histories and dominant positions in the marketplace that will survive through the turbulent times and good times alike.

He calls companies like these "Economic Moats", companies that have products to sell that have a point of difference, cannot easily be copied and are hugely dominant, and therefore see off competitors year after year. Mars/Wrigley strong brands easily fulfill this investment requirement.

Another requirement that fits Warren Buffett's investing criteria is the fact that Wrigley/Mars is a very easy business to understand. There is nothing complex about making chewing gum and chocolate bars and therefore huge continuing capital expense involved in such in industries as computing, in coming up with new technology to stay ahead of competitors isn't going to hurt the food-makers bottom line.

One thing I am not sure of, is if Buffett's main criteria for investing is being fulfilled in the Wrigley/Mars tie-up. That is, the value investing part of his investing principles. Whether he is paying too much for his stake in the merged company will only be known by the man himself and by the rest of us in time, as the merits and performance of the merged giant reveal themselves.

He is famous for making good investment decisions and I personally doubt he has made a mistake to get involved in this monumental marriage of these two sugar pushers.

In New Zealand the closest thing we have to a Wrigley/Mars is Goodman Fielder Ltd[GFF] , an Australasian food conglomerate with very strong dominant food brands and a long history of loyalty among consumers. Its brands are staples, its business easy to understand and its products consumed for breakfast lunch and dinner.

It definitely fits my investment criteria and I have a holding.

Further reading on the Mars/Wrigley merger

c Share Investor 2008