Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The WSJ’s „Tracking the Numbers” column discusses Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), saying that at $100,000 the shares of the co could be the cheapest most-expensive stock around. Despite its high price, some analysts say Berkshire, which now owns some 50 businesses ranging from underwear maker Fruit of the Loom to auto insurer Geico, has room to climb. "It's a 75-cent dollar right now," says Justin Fuller, of Morningstar, meaning it is about 25% undervalued. Mr. Fuller values the stock around $129,000 a share. The stock trades at a relatively inexpensive 1.6x its book value.

“Heard on the Street” column discusses banks with sizable exposure to Las Vegas. With the economy showing signs of slowing, investors may think the best play is to toss away shares of regional banks, including Zions Bancorp (ZION) and Western Alliance (WAL). Investors may win with that play in the short run, but they could lose a pretty big pot by failing to hold on to what they have for the long term. Brad Milsaps, of Sandler O'Neill, said a slowdown in home building in the Las Vegas metropolitan area will have a ripple effect on the 42 banks operating there. "In the near term you definitely have pressure," Mr. Milsaps said. But Mr. Milsaps can't ignore the gambling capital's long-term growth prospects, which he says should bode well for banks. "If there are problems in Vegas for one bank, the unfortunate thing is the perception may be that other banks in the mkt have problems as well," he said. "That may or may not be the case."

Barron’s “Inside Scoop” section reports that two directors at Western Alliance (WAL) have raised their stakes. In transactions on Oct. 19 and 20, directors William S. Boyd and M. Nafees Nagy bought a total of 79K Western Alliance shares for $2.6m. Boyd, who was the founder of Bank of Nevada, made the bulk of the purchases, shelling out $2.4m. The latest buys bring Boyd's total holdings in the co to 734K shares, or 3.2%. His daughter, Marianne Boyd Johnson, who is also a director, holds 4.6m shares, or about a 20.3% stake.

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