Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015

Should a surgeon operate on his or her own family member? Is a psychologist’s spouse a good candidate for his or her own couch? Professional and personal relationships usually shouldn’t mix — the emotional component too easily undermines sound decisions. When it comes to public companies’ operations, investors should look for unbiased, transparent leadership and truly independent boards of directors.

In some cases, corporate managements flagrantly disregard independent, impersonal approaches to management and boards. Instead, they blur the lines between personal and professional, a practice that should have shareholders concerned. 

All in the family
For several years, activist shareholders have pushed for board diversity at Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ: URBN  ) . Although the retailer caters to a heck of a lot of female customers, not one woman has served on the company’s board of directors.

This year, activist investors like Calvert Investment Management, the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, and the New York State Common Retirement Fund have continued the fight to get at least one female or minority director on the all-male board.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: The Fresh Market Inc.(TFM)

The Fresh Market, Inc. operates as a specialty grocery retailer. The company offers various perishable product categories, including meat, seafood, produce, deli, bakery, floral, sushi, and prepared foods; and non-perishable product categories, such as traditional grocery and dairy products, as well as specialty foods, which include bulk, coffee and candy, and beer and wine. As of March 20, 2012, it operated 115 stores in 21 states located in the southeast, midwest, mid-Atlantic, and northeast of United States. The company was founded in 1981 and is headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Charles Sizemore]

    All of this points to a rosy picture for premium grocery chains. Yet the stock performancee paint a very different picture. Compare the performance of publicly traded premium grocers — Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Market (SFM), The Fresh Market (TFM), and Fairway Group Holdings (FWM) — against that of the ultimate common-man’s grocer, Walmart. Since last October, Walmart is the only grocer stock that hasn’t seen substantial declines. What gives? I have one word for you: valuation.

  • [By Patricio Kehoe]

    Although switching costs are almost nonexistent in the grocery industry, Whole Foods has developed a solid competitive position through a differentiated value proposition that comprises a vast array of products offering and distinct customer service. These traits and its large network of stores have kept the firm ahead of notable competitors like The Fresh Market Inc. (TFM) and Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. (SFM). These rivals operate roughly 150 stores each and handle an average of 10,000 stock- keeping units against 20,000 at Whole Foods.

  • [By Rich Bieglmeier]

    [Related -The Fresh Market Inc (TFM): Highest-Margin Food Retailer At A Decent Multiple]

    The Fresh Market operates as a specialty grocery retailer in the United States. The company offers various perishable product categories, including meat, seafood, produce, deli, bakery, floral, sushi, and prepared foods; and non-perishable product categories, such as traditional grocery and dairy products, as well as bulk, coffee and candy, beer and wine, and health and beauty products. As of November 21, 2013, it operated 149 stores in 26 states.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: Revolution Lighting Technologies Inc (RVLT)

Revolution Lighting Technologies Inc., incorporated on December 16, 1993, designs, manufacture, market and sells commercial grade, light emitting diode (LED) replacement light bulbs and LED-based signage, channel letter and contour lighting products. The Company sells these products under the Seesmart, Array Lighting and Lumificient brand names. The Company operates in two segments: LED replacement lamps and fixtures and LED signage and lighting strips. On December 20, 2012, the Company acquired Seesmart Technologies, Inc., headquartered in Simi Valley, California. In August 2013, the Company announced that it has completed the acquisition of Relume Technologies (Relume). In October 2013, the Company announced that it has acquired a portfolio of general illumination LED lighting products, including several product lines from CMG Energy Solutions (CMG). In November 2013, the Company acquired Tri-State LED.

The Company’s LED replacement lamps and fixtures seg ment include the Seesmart business and the Array business, which has been integrated with the Seesmart business. The LED signage and lighting strips segment is comprised of the Lumificient business.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Rich Smith]

    As you’ve probably heard by now, shares of LED lighting specialist Revolution Lighting  (NASDAQ: RVLT  ) popped by nearly 18% in Monday trading. But why?

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Big Earnings Movers: The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is up 2.1% at $68.58 on a good showing for its films but not so much for its TV programming. Molycorp Inc. (NYSE: MCP) is up 1.8% at $4.85 after offering a weakish outlook. Revolution Lighting Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: RVLT) is up 21.5% at $3.28 after a strong report and reaffirmed solid outlook.

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Without making too much fuss over a small-cap stock, Revolution Lighting Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: RVLT) is seeing its share price rise by nearly 25% today after reporting results this Friday morning. Yahoo! Finance does not have any estimates for the company, but Revolution posted an operating loss of $3.1 million in the quarter, more than four times worse than its loss in the same period in 2012. Even with adjustments Revolution’s operating loss totaled $1.8 million.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: Mobile Mini Inc.(MINI)

Mobile Mini, Inc. provides portable storage solutions in North America, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. It offers a range of portable storage products in varying lengths and widths with various features, such as its patented locking systems, premium doors, and electrical wiring and shelving. The company?s products include remanufactured and modified steel storage containers, steel security office/storage combination and security office units, wood mobile office units, and steel records storage containers, as well as non-core storage units consisting of van trailers and other manufactured storage products. Mobile Mini also provides its products on lease basis to its customers. Its customers use its products for a range of storage applications, including retail and manufacturing supplies, inventory and maintenance supplies, temporary offices, construction materials and equipment, documents and records, and household goods. The company serves large and small retaile rs, construction companies, medical centers, schools, utilities, manufacturers and distributors, the United States and the United Kingdom military, government agencies, hotels, restaurants, entertainment complexes, and households. As of December 31, 2011, it operated a lease fleet of approximately 237,600 portable storage units through 109 branches in the United States, 4 branches in Canada, 19 branches in the United Kingdom, and 1 branch in the Netherlands. The company was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Brian Pacampara]

    What: Shares of portable storage specialist Mobile Mini (NASDAQ: MINI  ) climbed 10% today after its quarterly results topped Wall Street expectations.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: Iliad SA (ILIAF.PK)

Iliad SA is a France-based holding company active in the integrated telecommunications sector. The Company provides Internet access services, hosting services and others. Iliad SA is also focused on fixed-line telephony services and the provision of wireless fidelity (WiFi) cards, among several others. In addition, Iliad SA sells via Internet a range of insurance policies. As of December 31, 2012, the Company had a number of subsidiaries, which include Free SAS, Centrapel SAS, Freebox SAS, Telecom Academy SARL, Free Frequences SAS, Iliad 1 SAS, Iliad 2 SAS, Protelco SAS, IFW SAS, IRE SAS, Management Centre De Relation Abonne (MCRA), F Distribution SAS, and Centrapel SAS, among others. Its Fixe subsidiary is a landline business-provider of broadband Internet services. As of year-end 2012, the Company was active as a operator in more than 35 countries. Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Mike Arnold]

    I normally don’t look at charts much, but comparing Orange to its competitors in the French telecommunications market is quite fascinating. As one can see, incumbents Bouygues (BOUYF.PK) and Vivendi (VIVHY.PK) (owner of SFR) saw similar price declines. The market, on the other hand, rapidly bid up the price of new entrant Iliad SA (ILIAF.PK), as a result of forecasts for Iliad to capture significant mobile market share (which it did, around 10%). The wide divergence in price relative to changes in underlying value favor going long the incumbents, including Orange. Because this time it’s different.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: Lojas Renner SA (LREN3)

Lojas Renner SA is a Brazil- based company primarily involved in the operation of department stores. The Company divides its business into two segments. The Retail segment is engaged in sale of women’s, men’s and children’s apparels, underwear and shoes, as well as sportswear and other department stores’ articles in the domestic market. The Company also sells household articles, bedding and bath items, furniture and decoration articles. The Financial products segment is involved in the intermediation of financial services, including brokerage of personal loans, sales financing, brokerage of insurance and bonds, and credit card processing, among others. The Company operates through a numerous subsidiaries, including Dromegon Participacoes Ltda, Renner Administradora de Cartoes de Credito Ltda, Renner Empreendimentos Ltda and Maxmix Comercial Ltda. Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Ney Hayashi]

    Anhanguera Educacional Participacoes SA (AEDU3) tumbled after Brazil’s antitrust regulator signaled it may limit the education company’s merger with competitor Kroton Educacional SA. (KROT3) Lojas Renner SA (LREN3) led retailers higher after a report showed Brazil’s industrial production expanded faster than expected in October, easing concern that growth is faltering.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd (IMUC)

ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, Ltd., incorporated on March 20, 1987, is a clinical-stage biotechnology company. The Company is engaged in developing immune-based therapies for the treatment of cancers, such as brain, ovarian and other solid tumors. Immunotherapy is an approach to treat cancer in which a patient’s own immune system is stimulated to target tumor antigens, which are molecular signals that the immune system uses to identify foreign bodies. The Company’s products include ICT-107, ICT-140, ICT-120, ICT-109 and DIAAD. ICT-107, the pipeline product, is a Phase II therapeutic dendritic cell (DC) vaccine for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the common and lethal type of brain cancer. ICT-107 is designed to activate a patient’s immune system to target six different tumor-associated antigens. In February 2012, it acquired a world-wide license from the University of Pennsylvania and The John Hopkins University (JHU).

The Company in addit ion to ICT-107, is also developing other therapeutic DC vaccines: ICT-140 for ovarian cancer and ICT-121 for recurrent GBM. ICT-140 targets seven tumor-associated antigens expressed on ovarian cancer cells. ICT-107 is a DC vaccine that targets six different tumor-associated antigens that are found on patients’ tumor cells; four of the six antigens are expressed on CSCs. The therapeutic vaccine is used subsequent to conventional therapy or concomitantly with chemotherapy in patients with newly diagnosed GBM. ICT-140 is a DC vaccine that targets seven different ovarian cancer antigens. ICT-121 is a DC vaccine that targets CD133 antigens; it has the potential to be a universal cancer vaccine because CD133 is widely expressed on CSCs from a majority of cancers. Data from this small study demonstrated that ICT-109 had a statistically ability to discriminate between cancerous and non-cancerous samples, suggesting the potential to detect pancreatic and lung cancer in plasma and s erum study sets. The DIAAD (differential immunization for an! tigen and antibody discovery) platform it acquired from Molecular Discoveries utilizes immunological tolerization to accelerate the discovery of the molecular differences between diseased cells and their normal counterparts. The monoclonal antibodies produced by DIAAD provide the basis for the discovery and development of its potential diagnostic and therapeutic products.

The Company competes with Dendreon, Oncothyreon, Galena, Bavarian Nordic and Immunovaccine, Northwest Biotherapeutics, Prima Biomed, DCPrime, Roche/Genentech, Seattle Genetics, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Immunogen.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Monica Gerson]

    ImmunoCellular Therapeutics (NYSE: IMUC) dropped 11.05% to $1.3699. ImmunoCellular’s trailing-twelve-month ROE is -59.80%.

    Posted-In: market losersNews Movers & Shakers Intraday Update Markets

  • [By Wallace Witkowski]

    Shares of ImmunoCellular (IMUC)  jumped after the drug developer said data on a mid-stage brain cancer drug study were looking encouraging.

  • [By Lauren Pollock]

    ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd.(IMUC) said its leading product candidate, a dendritic cell-based vaccine for brain cancer, didn’t show a statistically significant advantage in overall survival in a Phase II study. In a research note, Maxim Group said it is pushing its EU approval date target to 2019 and lowered its estimate on the stock to $12 a share from $18 a share. The stock plunged 62% to $1.04 premarket.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (Berkshire) is a holding company owning subsidiaries engaged in a number of diverse business activities. The Company is engaged in insurance businesses conducted on both a primary basis and a reinsurance basis. Berkshire also owns and operates a number of other businesses engaged in a variety of activities. On December 30, 2011, Medical Protective Corporation (MedPro) completed the acquisition of 100% of the Princeton Insurance Company, a professional liability insurer for healthcare providers based in Princeton, New Jersey. During the year ended December 31, 2011, Acme Building Brands (Acme) acquired the assets of Jenkins Brick Company, the brick manufacturer in Alabama. In September 2011, Berkshire acquired The Lubrizol Corporation (Lubrizol). In June 2011, the Company acquired Wesco Financial Corporation. In June 2012, Media General, Inc. sold 63 daily and weekly newspapers to World Media Enterprises, Inc., a subsidiary of Berkshire. In July 2012 , Berkshire’s The Lubrizol Corporation acquired Lipotec SA.

Insurance and Reinsurance Businesses

Berkshire’s insurance and reinsurance business activities are conducted through numerous domestic and foreign-based insurance entities. Berkshire’s insurance businesses provide insurance and reinsurance of property and casualty risks world-wide and also reinsure life, accident and health risks world-wide. Berkshire’s insurance underwriting operations are consisted of the sub-groups, including GEICO and its subsidiaries, General Re and its subsidiaries, Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group and Berkshire Hathaway Primary Group. GEICO insurance subsidiaries include Government Employees Insurance Company, GEICO General Insurance Company, GEICO Indemnity Company and GEICO Casualty Company. These companies primarily offers private passenger automobile insurance to individuals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, GEICO insures mo torcycles, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles and s! mall commercial fleets and acts as an agent for other insurers who offer homeowners, boat and life insurance to individuals. GEICO markets its policies primarily through direct response methods in which applications for insurance are submitted directly to the companies through the Internet or by telephone.

General Re Corporation (General Re) is the holding company of General Reinsurance Corporation (GRC) and its subsidiaries and affiliates. GRC’s subsidiaries include General Reinsurance AG, a international reinsurer based in Germany. General Re subsidiaries conduct business activities globally in 51 cities and provide insurance and reinsurance coverages throughout the world. General Re provides property/casualty insurance and reinsurance, life/health reinsurance and other reinsurance intermediary and risk management, underwriting management and investment management services.

Property/Casualty Reinsurance

General Re’s property/casu alty reinsurance business in North America is conducted through GRC. Property/casualty operations in North America are also conducted through 16 branch offices in the United States and Canada. Reinsurance activities are marketed directly to clients without involving a broker or intermediary. General Re’s property/casualty business in North America also includes specialty insurers (primarily the General Star and Genesis companies domiciled in Connecticut and Ohio). These specialty insurers underwrite primarily liability and workers’ compensation coverages on an excess and surplus basis and excess insurance for self-insured programs. General Re’s international property/casualty reinsurance business operations are conducted through internationally-based subsidiaries on a direct basis (through General Reinsurance AG, as well as several other General Re subsidiaries in 25 countries) and through brokers (primarily through Faraday, which owns the managing agent of Syndicate 4 35 at Lloyd’s of London and provides capacity and particip! ates in 1! 00% of the results of Syndicate 435).

Life/Health Reinsurance

General Re’s North American and international life, health, long-term care and disability reinsurance coverages are written on an individual and group basis. Most of this business is written on a proportional treaty basis, with the exception of the United States group health and disability business which is predominately written on an excess treaty basis. Lesser amounts of life and disability business are written on a facultative basis. The life/health business is marketed on a direct basis. The Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group (BHRG) operates from offices located in Stamford, Connecticut. Business activities are conducted through a group of subsidiary companies, led by National Indemnity Company (NICO) and Columbia Insurance Company (Columbia). BHRG provides principally excess and quota-share reinsurance to other property and casualty insurers and reinsurers. BHRG’s underwriting activities also include life reinsurance and life annuity business written through Berkshire Hathaway Life Insurance Company of Nebraska and financial guaranty insurance written through Berkshire Hathaway Assurance Corporation.

BHRG writes catastrophe excess-of-loss treaty reinsurance contracts. BHRG also writes individual policies for primarily large or otherwise unusual discrete risks on both an excess direct and facultative reinsurance basis, referred to as individual risk, which includes policies covering terrorism, natural catastrophe and aviation risks. A catastrophe excess policy provides protection to the counterparty from the accumulation of primarily property losses arising from a single loss event or series of related events. Catastrophe and individual risk policies may provide amounts of indemnification per contract and a single loss event may produce losses under a number of contracts. BHRG also underwrites traditional non-catastrophe insurance and reinsurance coverages, referred to as multi-line property/c! asualty b! usiness.

The Berkshire Hathaway Primary Group is a collection of primary insurance operations that provide a variety of insurance coverages to insureds located principally in the United States. NICO and certain affiliates underwrite motor vehicle and general liability insurance to commercial enterprises on both an admitted and excess and surplus basis. This business is written nationwide primarily through insurance agents and brokers and is based in Omaha, Nebraska. U.S. Investment Corporation (USIC), through its three subsidiaries led by United States Liability Insurance Company, is a specialty insurer that underwrites commercial, professional and personal lines of insurance on an admitted and excess and surplus basis. Policies are marketed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia through wholesale and retail insurance agents. USIC companies underwrite and market 109 distinct specialty property and casualty insurance products. Medical Protective Corporatio n (MedPro) is based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Through its subsidiary, the Medical Protective Company, MedPro is engaged in primary medical professional liability coverage and risk solutions to physicians, dentists, other healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

Railroad Business

Through BNSF Railway, BNSF operates a railroad network in North America with approximately 32,000 route miles of track (excluding multiple main tracks, yard tracks and sidings) in 28 states and two Canadian provinces as of December 31, 2011. BNSF owns approximately 23,000 route miles, including easements, and operates on approximately 9,000 route miles of trackage rights that permit BNSF to operate its trains with its crews over other railroads’ tracks. As of December 31, 2011, the total BNSF Railway system, including single and multiple main tracks, yard tracks and sidings, consisted of approximately 50,000 operated miles of track, all of which are owned by or held under easement by BNSF except for approximately 10,000 route! miles op! erated under trackage rights.

BNSF is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and through BNSF Railway Company operates railroad systems in North America. In serving the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Western, Southwestern and Southeastern regions and ports of the country, BNSF transports a range of products and commodities derived from manufacturing, agricultural and natural resource industries. In serving the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Western, Southwestern and Southeastern regions and ports of the country, BNSF transports a range of products and commodities derived from manufacturing, agricultural and natural resource industries. Over half of the freight revenues of BNSF are covered by contractual agreements of varying durations. BNSF’s primary routes, including trackage rights, allow it to access cities and ports in the western and southern United States as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. In addition to cities and ports, BNSF efficiently serves many smaller market s by working closely with approximately 200 shortline partners. BNSF has also entered into marketing agreements with other rail carriers, expanding the marketing reach for each railroad and their customers.

Utilities and Energy Businesses

MidAmerican’s businesses are managed as separate operating units. MidAmerican’s domestic regulated energy interests are comprised of two regulated utility companies serving more than three million retail customers and two interstate natural gas pipeline companies with approximately 16,600 miles of pipeline and a design capacity of approximately 7.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Its United Kingdom electricity distribution subsidiaries serve about 3.9 million electricity end-users. In addition, MidAmerican’s interests include a diversified portfolio of domestic independent power projects, a hydroelectric facility in the Philippines and residential real estate brokerage firm in the United States.

PacifiCorp is a regulated electric utility compa! ny headqu! artered in Oregon, serving regulated retail electric customers in portions of Utah, Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho and California. The combined service territory’s diverse regional economy ranges from rural, agricultural and mining areas to urban, manufacturing and government service centers. As a vertically integrated electric utility, PacifiCorp owns approximately 10,600 net megawatts of generation capacity. MidAmerican Energy Company (MEC) is a regulated electric and natural gas utility company headquartered in Iowa, serving regulated retail electric and natural gas customers primarily in Iowa and also in portions of Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska. MEC has a diverse customer base consisting of residential, agricultural and a variety of commercial and industrial customer groups. In addition to retail sales and natural gas transportation, MEC sells regulated electricity to markets operated by regional transmission organizations and regulated electricity and natur al gas to other utilities and market participants on a wholesale basis and sells non-regulated electricity and natural gas services in deregulated markets. As a vertically integrated electric and gas utility, MEC owns approximately 7,000 net megawatts of generation capacity.

The natural gas pipelines consist of Northern Natural Gas Company (Northern Natural) and Kern River Gas Transmission Company (Kern River). Northern Natural is based in Nebraska and owns interstate natural gas pipeline systems in the United States reaching from southern Texas to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Northern Natural’s pipeline system consists of approximately 14,900 miles of natural gas pipelines. Northern Natural has access to supplies from mid-continent basin and provides transportation services to utilities and numerous other customers. Northern Natural also operates three underground natural gas storage facilities and two liquefied natural gas storage peaking units.

< p>Kern River is based in Utah and owns an interstate natural! gas pipe! line system that consists of approximately 1,700 miles and extends from the supply areas in the Rocky Mountains to consuming markets in Utah, Nevada and California. Kern River transports natural gas for electric utilities and natural gas distribution utilities, oil and natural gas companies or affiliates of such companies, electricity generating companies, energy marketing and trading companies, and financial institutions. The United Kingdom utilities consist of Northern Powergrid (Northeast) Limited (Northern Powergrid (Northeast)) and Northern Powergrid (Yorkshire) plc (Northern Powergrid (Yorkshire)), which own a substantial United Kingdom electricity distribution network that delivers electricity to end-users in northeast England in an area covering approximately 10,000 square miles. The distribution companies primarily charge supply companies regulated tariffs for the use of electrical infrastructure. MidAmerican also owns HomeServices of America, Inc. (HomeServices), a full-service residential real estate brokerage firm in the United States. HomeServices also offers integrated real estate services, including mortgage originations through a joint venture, title and closing services, property and casualty insurance, home warranties, relocation services and other home-related services. It operates under 22 residential real estate brand names with over 14,000 sales associates and in nearly 300 brokerage offices in 20 states.

Manufacturing, Service and Retailing Businesses

Berkshire’s numerous and diverse manufacturing, service and retailing businesses. Marmon consists of approximately 140 manufacturing and service businesses that operate independently within eleven diverse, stand-alone business sectors. These sectors are Building Wire, Crane Services, Distribution Services, Engineered Wire and Cable, Flow Products, Food Service Equipment, Highway Technologies, Industrial Products, Retail Store Fixtures, Transporta tion Services and Engineered Products and Water Treatment.

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Building Wire, providing copper electrical building wire for residential, commercial and industrial construction. Crane Services provides the leasing and operation of mobile cranes primarily to the energy, mining and petrochemical markets. Distribution Services, supplying specialty metal pipe and tubing, bar and sheet products to markets including construction, industrial, aerospace and many others. Engineered Wire & Cable, providing electrical and electronic wire and cable for energy related markets and other industries. Flow Products is producing copper tube for the plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), refrigeration, and industrial markets. Food Service Equipment is supplying commercial food preparation equipment for restaurants and shopping carts for retail stores. Highway Technologies, primarily serving the heavy-duty highway transportation industry with trailers, fifth wheel coupling devices and undercarriage products such as brake parts and s uspension systems, and also serving the light vehicle aftermarket with clutches and related products.

Industrial Products, consisting of metal fasteners for the building, furniture, cabinetry, industrial and other markets, gloves for industrial markets, portable lighting equipment for mining and safety markets, overhead electrification equipment for mass transit systems, custom-machined brass, aluminum and copper forgings for the construction, valve and other industries, brass fittings and valves for commercial and industrial applications, and drawn aluminum tubing and extruded aluminum shapes for the construction, automotive, appliance, medical and other markets . Retail Store Fixtures, providing shelving and other merchandising displays and related services for retail stores worldwide. Transportation Services & Engineered Products, including manufacturing, leasing and maintenance of railroad tank cars, leasing of intermodal tank containers, in-plant rail serv ices, manufacturing of bi-modal railcar movers, wheel, axle ! and gear ! sets for light rail transit and gear products for locomotives, manufacturing of steel tank heads, and services, equipment and technology for processing and distributing sulfur. Water Treatment, equipment including residential water softening, purification and refrigeration filtration systems, treatment systems for industrial markets including power generation, oil and gas, chemical, and pulp and paper, gear drives for irrigation systems and cooling towers, and air-cooled heat exchangers. Marmon operates approximately 300 manufacturing, distribution and service facilities that are primarily located in North America, Europe and China, and employs more than 16,000 people worldwide.

McLane Company, Inc. (McLane) provides wholesale distribution and logistics services in all 50 states and internationally in Brazil to customers that include discount retailers, convenience stores, wholesale clubs, quick service restaurants, drug stores and military bases. Operations are divided into five business units: grocery distribution, foodservice distribution, beverage distribution, international logistics and software development. McLane’s foodservice distribution unit, based in Carrollton, Texas, focuses on serving the quick service restaurant industry. Operations are conducted through 18 facilities in 16 states. The foodservice distribution unit services more than 20,000 chain restaurants nationwide.

Other Manufacturing, Other Service and Retailing Businesses

Berkshire’s apparel manufacturing businesses include manufacturers of a variety of clothing and footwear. Businesses engaged in the manufacture and distribution of clothing products include Fruit of the Loom, Inc. (Fruit), Russell Brands, LLC (Russell), Vanity Fair Brands, LP (VFB), Garan and Fechheimer Brothers. Berkshire’s footwear businesses include H.H. Brown Shoe Group, Justin Brands and Brooks Athletic. Fruit, Russell and VFB (together FOL) is primaril y a vertically integrated manufacturer and distributor of ba! sic appar! el, underwear and athletic apparel and products. Products, under the Fruit of the Loomand JERZEES labels are primarily sold in the mass merchandise and wholesale markets. In the VFB product line, Vassarette, Bestformand Curvationare sold in the mass merchandise market, while Vanity Fairand Lily of Franceproducts are sold in the mid-tier chains and department stores. FOL also markets and sells athletic uniforms, apparel, sports equipment and balls to team dealers; college licensed tee shirts and fleecewear to college bookstores and mid-tier merchants; and athletic apparel, sports equipment and balls to sporting goods retailers under the Russell Athleticand Spaldingbrands. Additionally, Spaldingmarkets and sells balls in the mass merchandise market and dollar store channel. During the year ended December, 31, 2011, approximately 30% of FOL’s sales were to Wal-Mart. FOL generally performs its own spinning, knitting, cloth finishing, cutting, sewing and packaging.

< p>Garan designs, manufactures, imports and sells apparel primarily for children, including boys, girls, toddlers and infants. Products are sold under its own trademark Garanimalsand private labels of its customers. Garan also licenses its registered trademark Garanimalsto independent third parties. Garan conducts its business through operating subsidiaries located in the United States, Central America and Asia. Substantially all of Garan’s products are sold through its distribution centers in the United States to national chain stores, department stores and specialty stores. In 2011, over 90% of Garan’s sales were to Wal-Mart. Fechheimer Brothers manufactures, distributes and sells uniforms, principally for the public service and safety markets, including police, fire, postal and military markets. Fechheimer Brothers is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Justin Brands and H.H. Brown Shoe Group manufacture and distribute work, rugged outdoor and casual shoes and wes tern-style footwear under a number of brand names, including! Justin, ! Tony Lama, Nocona, Chippewas, Born, Sofft, Carolina, Double-H Boots, Corcoran, Matterhornand Kork-Ease. Brooks Athletic markets and sells running footwear to specialty retailers under Brooksbrand. In 2011, Brooksachieved #1 market share in footwear with specialty retailers. A volume of the shoes sold by Berkshire’s shoe businesses are manufactured or purchased from sources outside the United States. Products are principally sold in the United States through a variety of channels including department stores, footwear chains, specialty stores, catalogs and the Internet, as well as through Company-owned retail stores.

Acme manufactures and distributes clay bricks (Acme Brickand Jenkins Brick), concrete block (Featherlite) and cut limestone (Texas Quarries). In addition, Acme distributes a number of other building products of other manufacturers, including glass block, floor and wall tile and other masonry products. Acme also sells ceramic floor and wall tile, as well as marble, granite and other stones through its subsidiary, American Tile and Stone. Products are sold primarily in the South Central and South Eastern United States through Company-operated sales offices. Acme distributes products primarily to homebuilders and masonry and general contractors.

Benjamin Moore & Co. (Benjamin Moore) is a formulator, manufacturer and retailer of a range of architectural coatings, available principally in the United States and Canada. Products include water-thinnable and solvent-thinnable general purpose coatings (paints, stains and clear finishes) for use by the general public, contractors and industrial and commercial users. Products are marketed under various registered brand names, including Regal, Superspec, Moorcraft, Moorgard, Aura, Nattura, ben, Coronado Paint, Insl-xand Lenmar.

Benjamin Moore and its manufacturing subsidiaries rely primarily on an independent dealer network for the distribution of its p roducts. Its distribution network includes approximately 100! Company-! owned stores as well as over 4,500 third party retailers representing over 10,300 storefronts in the United States and Canada. Benjamin Moore’s Company-owned stores represent several multiple-outlet and stand-alone retailers in various parts of the United States and Canada serving primarily contractors and general consumers. The independent retailer channel offers an array of products including Benjamin Mooreand Insl-xbrands and other competitor coatings, wallcoverings, window treatments and sundries. Benjamin Moore also has three color stations located in regional malls that serve as brand marketing tools. In addition to the independent retailer channel, Benjamin Moore has recently begun to sell direct to the consumer through e-commerce sites and its customer care program, which includes national accounts and government agencies.

Johns Manville (JM) is a manufacturer and marketer of products for building insulation, mechanical insulation, commercial roofing and roof insulation, as well as fibers and nonwovens for commercial, industrial and residential applications. JM serves markets that include aerospace, automotive and transportation, air handling, appliance, HVAC, pipe and equipment filtration, waterproofing, building, flooring, interiors and wind energy. Fiber glass is the basic material in a majority of JM’s products, although JM also manufactures a portion of its products with other materials to satisfy the broader needs of its customers. JM regards its patents and licenses as valuable, however it does not consider any of its businesses to be materially dependent on any single patent or license. JM is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and operates 40 manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and China and conducts research and development at several other facilities. JM sells its products through a variety of channels, including contractors, distributors, retailers, manufacturers and fabricators.

MiTek is a provider of engineered connector products, engine! ering sof! tware and services and computer-driven manufacturing machinery to the truss fabrication segment of the building components industry. Primary customers are truss fabricators who manufacture pre-fabricated roof and floor trusses and wall panels for the residential building market, as well as the light commercial and institutional construction industry. MiTek also participates in the light gauge steel framing market under the Ultra-Spanname, manufactures and markets assembly line machinery used by the lead acid battery industry, manufactures and markets a line of masonry connector products and manufactures and markets air handling systems used in commercial building. MiTek operates on six continents with sales into approximately 90 countries. MiTek has 34 manufacturing facilities located in eleven countries and 45 sales/engineering offices located in 17 countries.

The Shaw Industries Group, Inc. (Shaw) is a carpet manufacturer based on both revenue and volume of p roduction. Shaw designs and manufactures over 3,000 styles of tufted carpet, tufted and woven rugs, laminate and wood flooring for residential and commercial use under about 30 brand and trade names and under certain private labels. Shaw also provides installation services and sells ceramic and vinyl tile along with sheet vinyl. Shaw’s manufacturing operations are fully integrated from the processing of raw materials used to make fiber through the finishing of carpet. Shaw’s carpet, rugs and hard surface products are sold in a broad range of prices, patterns, colors and textures.

Shaw products are sold wholesale to over 40,000 retailers, distributors and commercial users throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico and are also exported to various overseas markets. Shaw’s wholesale products are marketed domestically by over 2,000 salaried and commissioned sales personnel directly to retailers and distributors and to national accounts. Shaw’s 10 carpet full-service distribution facilities, three hard surface an! d two rug! full-service distribution facilities and 24 redistribution centers, along with centralized management information systems, enable it to provide prompt efficient delivery of its products to both its retail customers and wholesale distributors.

Berkshire acquired an 80% interest in IMC International Metalworking Companies B.V. (IMC B.V.). Through its subsidiaries, IMC B.V. is a multinational manufacturers of consumable precision carbide metal cutting tools for applications in a range of industrial end markets under the brand names ISCAR, TaeguTec, Ingersoll, Tungaloy, Unitac, UOP It.te.diand Outiltec. IMC B.V.’s manufacturing facilities are located in Israel, United States, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, South Korea, China, India, Japan and Brazil. IMC B.V. has five primary product lines: milling tools, gripping tools, turning/thread tools, drilling tools and tooling. Forest River, Inc. (Forest River) is a manufacturer of recreational vehicles, utility, cargo and office trailers, buses and pontoon boats, headquartered in Elkhart, Indiana. Its products are sold in the United States and Canada through an independent dealer network.

Scott Fetzer companies are a diversified group of 20 businesses that manufacture and distribute a variety of products for residential, industrial and institutional use. The two of these businesses are Kirby home cleaning systems and Campbell Hausfeld products. Albecca Inc. (Albecca), headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, does business primarily under the Larson-Juhlname. Albecca designs, manufactures and distributes a complete line of branded custom framing products, including wood and metal moulding, matboard, foamboard, glass, equipment and other framing supplies in the United States, Canada and 15 countries outside of North America. CTB International Corp. is a designer, manufacturer and marketer of systems used in the grain industry and in the production of poultry, hogs and eggs.

Lubrizol is a specialty chemical company that pro! duces and! supplies technologies for the global transportation, industrial and consumer markets. Lubrizol operates two business sectors: Lubrizol Additives, which includes engine, driveline and industrial additive products and Lubrizol Advanced Materials, which includes personal and home care, engineered polymer and performance coating products. FlightSafety International Inc.(FlightSafety) is engaged primarily in the business of providing high technology training to operators of aircraft. FlightSafety’s training activities include advanced training for pilots of business and commercial aircraft; aircrew training for military and other government personnel; aircraft maintenance technician training; flight attendant and aircraft dispatcher training, and ab-initio (primary) pilot training to qualify individuals for private and commercial pilots’ licenses. FlightSafety also develops classroom instructional systems and materials for use in its training business and for sale to others.

NetJets Inc. (NJ) is a provider of fractional ownership programs for general aviation aircraft. TTI, Inc. (TTI) is a global specialty distributor of passive, interconnect, electromechanical and discrete components used by customers in the manufacturing and assembling of electronic products. Business Wire provides electronic dissemination of full-text news releases daily to the media, online services and databases and the global investment community in 150 countries and 45 languages. Berkshire’s retailing businesses principally consist of several independently managed home furnishings and jewelry operations. The home furnishings businesses are the Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), R.C. Willey Home Furnishings (R.C. Willey), Star Furniture Company (Star) and Jordan’s Furniture, Inc. (Jordan’s). NFM, R.C. Willey, Star and Jordan’s each offer a wide selection of furniture, bedding and accessories. In addition, NFM and R.C. Willey sell a line of household appl iances, electronics, computers and other home furnishings. N! FM, R.C. ! Willey, Star and Jordan’s also offer customer financing to complement their retail operations. An important feature of each of these businesses is their ability to control costs and to produce high business volume by offering value to their customers.

NFM operates its business from two retail complexes with almost one million square feet of retail space and sizable warehouse and administrative facilities in Omaha, Nebraska and Kansas City, Kansas. NFM is a furniture retailer in each of its markets. NFM also owns Homemakers Furniture located in Des Moines, Iowa, which has approximately 215,000 square feet of retail space. R.C. Willey, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a home furnishings retailer in the Intermountain West region of the United States. R.C. Willey operates 11 retail stores, two retail clearance facilities and three distribution centers. Borsheim Jewelry Company, Inc. (Borsheims) operates from a single store located in Omaha, Nebraska. Borsheims i s a high volume retailer of jewelry, watches, crystal, china, stemware, flatware, gifts and collectibles. Helzberg’s Diamond Shops, Inc. (Helzberg), based in North Kansas City, Missouri, operates a chain of 233 retail jewelry stores in 37 states, which includes approximately 550,000 square feet of retail space. Most of Helzberg’s stores are located in malls, lifestyle centers or power strip centers, and all stores operate under the name Helzberg Diamonds. The Ben Bridge Corporation (Ben Bridge Jeweler), based in Seattle, Washington, operates a chain of 70 upscale retail jewelry stores located in 11 states that are primarily in the Western United States. Three of its locations are concept stores that sell only PANDORA jewelry.

Finance and Financial Products

Clayton Homes, Inc. (Clayton) is a vertically integrated manufactured housing company. At December 31, 2011, Clayton operated 33 manufacturing plants in 12 states. Clayton’s homes are marke ted in 48 states through a network of 1,333 retailers, inclu! ding 333 ! Company-owned home centers. Financing is offered through its finance subsidiaries to purchasers of Clayton’s manufactured homes as well as those purchasing homes from selected independent retailers. XTRA Corporation (XTRA), headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, is a transportation equipment lessor operating under the XTRA Leasebrand name. XTRA manages a diverse fleet of approximately 83,000 units located at 63 facilities throughout the United States and two facilities in Canada. The fleet includes over-the-road and storage traile

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Anora Mahmudova]

    Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B)   (BRK.A) , which late Friday reported lower first-quarter profits, fell 1.2%. Also read a recap of the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting over the weekend.

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    It looks like this has become the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) blog, where it’s all Berkshire Hathaway all the time.

    Zuma Press

    Already today, I looked at KBW’s concerns surrounding Berkshire Hathaway’s disclosures. Now, Warren Buffett’s investment vehicle has released first quarter financial results.

    The Wall Street Journal has the details on Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings:

    Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. reported lower railroad and insurance-related net income as the conglomerate posted a 6.6% drop in first-quarter operating profit.

    For the first quarter, Berkshire reported net income of $4.71 billion, or $2,862 a Class A share, compared with $4.89 billion, or $2,977 a share, a year earlier. Operating profit, which excludes some investment results, fell to $2,149 a share from $2,302 a share.

    Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting operating earnings of $2,172 per Class A share…

    In other news, Berkshire Hathaway also announced that its next chairman would be…Warren Buffet’s son Howard Buffett.

    Berkshire Hathaway’s B shares have dropped 0.2% to $127.90 in after-hours trading after falling 0.8% to $128.09 in regular-hour trading. Berkshire Hathaway’s A shares (BRK.A) dropped 0.6% to $192,255.00 today.

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.B) Warren Buffett reputation as both a stock picker and an above-board manager of money has made him nearly a god, to the point where he is often above reproach.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    That hasn’t stopped KBW’s Meyer Shields and team from raising some pointed criticisms in a report released yestedardy. They explain their dissatisfaction with Berkshire Hathaway:

    Another year, another missing invitation to Omaha. While we can’t know for sure, we presume our exclusion from the panel from which Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger select analysts to ask questions at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting has something to do with our occasionally critical analysis. We have some operational questions, of course, but more important, we caution investors to consider whether this apparent message control limits their understanding of a company whose disclosure isn’t, in our opinion, keeping up with its $300 billion market cap size. This is especially important in light of succession concerns that surround the stock.

    What kind of issues does Shields and team see? One example: They find Berkshire’s choice of State Farm as a comparison misleading:

    For the past several years, Berkshire has contrasted its own cost-free float provided by profitable underwriting against the industry’s (unimpressive) tendency to lose money on underwriting while generating net returns from investment income. So far, so good. Less edifying, though, is the repeated contrast of Berkshire’s track record of profitability to State Farm’s…even though, as a mutual company, State Farm’s profitability goals are inherently different from for-profit insurers like Berkshire. It’s true that through year-end 2013, Berkshire’s underwriters have “now operated at an underwriting profit for eleven consecutive years,” but so have ACE (ACE), American Financial (AFG),  AmTrust Financial (AFSI), Arch Capital (ACGL), Chubb

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Buying Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) always has seemed like a leap of faith–you either believed in Warren Buffett’s omnipotence or you didn’t–that having an analyst cover the company always seemed beside the point. But analysts do cover Berkshire Hathaway, and one of them even had something to say about the company today.

    AFP

    That would Barclays’ Jay Gelb, who released a big report on Berkshire Hathaway today. And wouldn’t you know it, not only does he like Warren Buffett’s baby, he thinks now would be a good time to buy. Gelb explains why:

    Berkshire’s insurance businesses generates substantial no-cost float ($77bn at YE13) available for investing and will benefit from the Heinz acquisition. Importantly, Berkshire has significant cash available for additional acquisitions (we estimate ~$25bn) to supplement organic growth…

    Berkshire Hathaway has substantial leverage to an improving economy including the housing market with its non-insurance business accounting for two-thirds of operating earnings. Overall, Berkshire should benefit from consistent earnings growth in the Burlington Northern railroad business (including oil-by-rail), as well as the Manufacturing, Service, and Retail, and the Utilities and Energy units…

    [Berkshire Hathaway] shares are attractively valued currently at 1.41x book value, which is near the level (1.2x book value) at which the company will repurchase stock. The buyback plan provides a support level and signals how strongly Mr. Buffett believes Berkshire’s intrinsic value exceeds its book value.

    Berkshire Hathaway’s B shares have dropped 0.7% to$126.33 at 1:37 p.m., while Berkshire Hathaway’s A shares (BRK.A) has fallen 0.7% to $189,400. It will report earnings on May 2.

Top Defensive Stocks To Own For 2015: Vanguard Large Cap Etf (VV)

Vanguard Large-Cap ETF, formerly known as Vanguard Large-Cap VIPERs, is an exchange-traded share class that seeks to track the investment performance of the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) US Prime Market 750 Index (Index). The Fund employs an indexing approach to provide exposure to predominantly large-cap companies in the United States, diversified across growth and value styles.

The Index represents the universe of predominantly large-capitalization companies in the United States equity market. Using full replication, the Fund invests in all of the Index stocks, holding each stock in approximately the same proportion as its weighting in the Index.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Selena Maranjian]

    Exchange-traded funds offer a convenient way to invest in sectors or niches that interest you. If you’d like to add some large-cap stocks to your portfolio but don’t have the time or expertise to hand-pick a few, the Vanguard Large-Cap ETF (NYSEMKT: VV  ) could save you a lot of trouble. Instead of trying to figure out which large-cap stocks will perform best, you can use this ETF to invest in lots of them simultaneously.

    The basics
    ETFs often sport lower expense ratios than their mutual-fund cousins. This ETF, focused on large-cap stocks, sports a relatively low expense ratio — an annual fee — of 0.1%. It yields about 2%.

    This ETF has performed reasonably, but it’s also very young, with just a few years on the books. It underperformed the S&P 500 in 2008 and 2010, though it beat it substantially in 2007 and 2009. As with most investments, of course, we can’t expect outstanding performances in every quarter or year. Investors with co nviction need to wait for their holdings to deliver.