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Professor Buffett's Water Lesson

NEW YORK ( -- While I have reported on Warren Buffett's headline-making investments in companies such as Goldman Sachs (GS), General Electric (GE) and BYD, other, less flashy Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) holdings such as Nalco (NLC) may soon be earning the investor additional profit as well.

Nalco was originally founded in 1928 as the National Aluminate Corporation. Since its founding the company has gone through a number of name changes, listings, delistings and a French acquisition. However, today it sits comfortably as the leading provider of water-treatment and process-improvement chemicals, equipment and services. On top of this, Nalco has earned a spot among Buffett's personal favorites.

While the company appears stable today, Nalco's volatile past led to the creation of a considerable amount of debt that, until recently, distracted the company from reaching its full potential. However, when J. Erik Fyrwald took control of the company in February of 2008, he made it his goal to turn the company around.

Before joining Nalco, Fyrwald held the position of vice president and general manager of DuPont's (DD) Nutrition and Health Business. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in chemical engineering and, on top of being the chairman, president and CEO of Nalco, he serves on the board of directors for Eli Lilly (LLY).

According to Barron's, Fyrwald and his team put together a three-year growth strategy aimed at, among other things, reducing costs and chipping away at the company's debt.

When Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway purchased 8.7 million shares of the company, they did so expecting to see big things in the future. Today, Nalco's water business is three times the size of General Electric's, another Berkshire holding.

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