Warren Buffet became one of the world's greatest investors by sticking to businesses he understood, investing for the long term, and being greedy when others were fearful. Of course, if it were that easy, we would all be investors as rich as Warren Buffett. And while we aren't, three Motley Fool contributors have picked some Warren Buffett stocks that might be good investments for you right now: Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), General Motors (NYSE: GM), and U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB).
A renowned investment bank selling for cheap
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Jeremy Bowman (Goldman Sachs): 2018 has been a rough year for financial stocks, as worries about a flattening yield curve, weakening economies in emerging markets, and trade tensions with China have largely sent bank stocks and their peers lower. Goldman Sachs, however, has been one of the worst performers in its sector; the stock is down 32% after facing fallout from the 1MDB scandal, in which Goldman Sachs has come under attack for its role in a series of misdeeds around a Malaysian state investment fund. Most recently, Malaysia filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs, which collected $600 million in fees from a bond raise for the Asian nation, for its role in the scandal.
While the threat from the 1MDB scandal is real, it will likely only cost Goldman in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars, and investors seem to have accounted for those consequences, as the stock trades at a P/E of less than 7 based on this year's expected earnings per share.
Warren Buffett has been a buyer of Goldman Sachs shares this year. The Oracle of Omaha is a fan of financial stocks generally and looks for companies with valuable brands. Goldman, a leading global investment bank, has such a brand despite the current scandal. Buffett also likes the rapid growth of Goldman's new consumer banking division, Marcus, which has rapidly expanded since late 2016 and has now made more than $4 billion in loans.
Factor in the stock's 1.9% dividend yield and a new $5 billion stock repurchase plan, and this looks like a classic Buffett value play. As he's said before, "Be greedy when others are fearful."
Forget about peak auto
Daniel Miller (General Motors): I'll go against the grain a little bit and take General Motors, but only if investors share two of Buffett's investment tendencies: long-term outlook and value emphasis. You'll need a long-term outlook to own shares of General Motors, because vehicle sales in the world's most profitable auto market, right here in the States, are plateauing this cycle and will likely decline in the years ahead. And if you're a value investor, General Motors' consensus forward price-to-earnings ratio, a paltry 5.43 times, is in your wheelhouse. Here are three quick reasons GM is still a Warren Buffett stock worth buying.
First, thanks to the company's low stock price, its dividend yield is a juicy 4.4%. However, that yield is only valuable long term if the company can sustain its payouts. The good news is that through the first three-quarters of 2018, GM's dividend payout ratio was only 28.3%. While that's a low level, and investors shouldn't count on GM increasing the dividend anytime soon, sustaining it should not be an issue. Also remember that GM has $18 billion in cash at the end of the third quarter.
The second reason goes hand in hand with the first: restructuring to save cash. General Motors is ahead of the curve in preparing for a downturn and announced a massive restructuring that will boost GM's annual adjusted automotive free cash flow from $4 billion this year to roughly $10 billion by the end of 2020. This frees up cash for GM to invest in the future business of driverless vehicles, electric fleets, and smart mobility projects -- and to prepare for how all those futures combine.
Third, while GM has ample cash to invest in its future, it has possibly already struck gold with its self-driving subsidiary, GM Cruise. GM acquired Cruise Automation in 2016 for a little more than $1 billion. With SoftBank Group's (NASDAQOTH: SFTBF) $2.25 billion investment in the subsidiary, GM Cruise is valued at $11.5 billion already. But wait, there's more: RBC Capital Markets auto-industry analyst Joseph Spak wrote to clients that it could be worth $43 billion and could be incredibly profitable by 2030.
If you have a long-term outlook, enjoy dividends, and are interested in value stocks, GM could be a Warren Buffett stock worth buying.
The best bank in Buffett's bunch
Jordan Wathen (U.S. Bancorp): If there is one industry Buffett knows best, it's likely the banking industry, where being choosy has helped the renowned super-investor earn impressive returns through the economic ups and downs over the course of several decades.
Buying all the banks Buffett owns wouldn't be the worst idea, but if you could only pick one, U.S. Bancorp would likely be a top choice, because it is one of the least bank-like banks in his portfolio. While the super-regional bank takes loans and makes deposits, its "special sauce" is a mix of fee-generating businesses that help it earn higher returns on equity than virtually all of its peers.
Fee-generating businesses are the Holy Grail of the banking world because profits are earned largely without risk, and fee income is less cyclical than income earned from lending. Consider that in the first nine months of 2018, U.S. Bancorp's noninterest sources of income covered approximately 77% of its operating costs. In that respect, almost everything it earns from lending flows directly into pre-tax profit.
Banks that have no need to make risky loans often don't. U.S. Bancorp's loan book is stuffed to the brim with high-quality loans to businesses and mortgages backed by hard collateral. These loans should perform better than average during the next economic downturn, just as they did during the 2008 financial crisis, when U.S. Bancorp's credit metrics were head and shoulders above those of its peers.
Best of all, recent declines in the stock market give investors the opportunity to buy in at an attractive price. Shares now trade at a double-digit discount to the price at which Buffett was buying U.S. Bancorp in the third quarter.
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Daniel Miller owns shares of General Motors. Jeremy Bowman owns shares of General Motors. Jordan Wathen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.