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Eaton Eats It



January 01, 2010 – Comments (7) | RELATED TICKERS: ETN , BRK-A


We noticed a news report last month that mentioned Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) had sold its 2 million share stake in Eaton Corporation, (NYSE: ETN), a move that admittedly struck us as odd since every website that can spell Warren Buffett says he holds stocks for perpetuity.

Curious about the company that Warren Buffett dumped, we poked around.

Financial information contained in this report, is based on the company's most recent Form 10-K filing for fiscal year ending December 31, 2008, as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 27, 2009.

What They Do
Eaton Corporation is a diversified power management company and a global technology leader in electrical components and systems for power quality, distribution and control; hydraulics components, systems and services for industrial and mobile equipment; aerospace fuel, hydraulics and pneumatic systems for commercial and military use; and truck and automotive drivetrain and powertrain systems for performance, fuel economy and safety. The company sells products to customers in more than 150 countries.

Short-Term Investment
With first resistance at $64.02, a recent close of $63.62, and first support at $52.60, we simply don't see any reason to put almost $64+ at risk for a potential gain of 1%, especially when the downside is almost 20%.

Long-Term Investment
There is no simple way for us to say this, we think the company's balance sheet sux.

More than 46% of total assets are goodwill and intangibles, total debt is more than 1.6 times net fixed assets and more than 8 times cash.

In addition, management allowed the company to increase its total debt by more that $650 million something that in our opinion was not necessary had the board of directors grown some stones and eliminated the $320 million the company spent paying dividends.

We would also point out that had management not wasted another $100 million of company funds buying back company shares, the company's cash balance would have increased from $1.14 per share to a much more reasonable $3.68 per share.

But management didn't do any of those things.

Instead, it appears to us, that management inserted it's collective head in it's collective rear end and then prayed for a collective glass stomach so it could see where it was going.

Is this why Mr. Buffett closed his position in the company? We have no idea, but it's as good a reason as any given the seeming ineptitude of management.


For the Eaton Corporation Raw Value worksheet, please click here.

7 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On January 01, 2010 at 1:32 PM, chk999 (99.96) wrote:

There is more to Berkshire than just Buffett's buy and sells. There are at least two other people managing large amounts of money there.

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#2) On January 01, 2010 at 2:07 PM, Tastylunch (28.62) wrote:

he's been selling Moody's too I believe.

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#3) On January 01, 2010 at 2:07 PM, Tastylunch (28.62) wrote:

happy new year Wax!

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#4) On January 01, 2010 at 3:44 PM, ikkyu2 (98.10) wrote:

Taking on debt when the purpose seems to be solely to pay a dividend is an automatic no-go for me.  I've gotten out of probably 10 companies in the last few years when they did that and I've never regretted it.  (although once I was wrong and they used the money for an acquisition a few weeks after I sold; I was able to get back in to that company at a better price.)

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#5) On January 01, 2010 at 7:56 PM, wax (< 20) wrote:

Thanx for all of the comments. I hope everyone has/had a great New Years day and that the year ahead finds you healthy and prosperous.



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#6) On January 02, 2010 at 4:42 PM, grel (< 20) wrote:

This filing is 10 months old and describes 2008. Nothing new here.

Buffet's sale of Eaton at the end of 2009 seems to have more to do with his purchase of Burlington Northern than anything else.

The filing shows pretty clearly that the debt incurred (again, in 2008) was largely due a couple of acquisitions. The maligned stock buyback was only about 1/3 of what it was the prior years. This just shows that Eaton didn't accurately predict the crisis at the end of 2008. Join the club.

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#7) On January 24, 2010 at 2:09 PM, StevenD7 (< 20) wrote:

Eaton recently lost an antitrust lawsuit, the result of which could cost them over 1 billion dollars. How could the FOOL have missed that one?

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