Investors shouldn't ignore the fact that Deere owns its own captive finance arm, not unlike many car companies. The key difference is the fact that the machines financed through Deere are substantially bigger-ticket, and they're the lifeblood of commercial farming operations. That's helped keep defaults lower than many analysts expected in the wake of the Great Recession. And now, Deere's finance unit is another major ace in its pocket: in this environment, the firm has access to exceedingly cheap capital, and it should be able to stoke the growth fires as a result.
As Deere expands its international reach, the firm should be able to turn out impressive growth numbers. That growth isn't priced into shares right now.
The business may be boring at Precision Castparts (PCP - Get Report), but Berkshire Hathaway is proof positive that boring stocks can produce some truly exciting returns. PCP manufactures metal castings and fasteners for aerospace and industrial customers, churning out everything from the rivets used on assembly lines to the structural castings that give jet engines their strength. Berkshire Hathaway initiated a position of 1.25 million shares of PCP in the latest quarter, buying up a stake worth $204 million right now.Even though Precision Castparts may not have the houshold name status of Deere, this metal products firm is every bit as dominant in its key markets. PCP's jet engine components, for instance, are used by every major turbine manufacturer on the market -- that lack of competition is a big defense for PCP's income statement. With orders for more efficient next-generation commercial aircraft on the upswing, orders should continue to climb for PCP over the foreseeable future. The firm's scale is also important. Because PCP is bigger than competitors in the forged metal business, its able to produce larger single pieces than many other firms are capable of making. Cost is critical for PCP's success, but most of the firm's capital expenditures are modest at this point, and much of the capital-intense parts of the business are already paid for. On the balance sheet, Precision Castparts is essentially debt-neutral, with cash and investments offsetting the firm's relatively small debt load. A deal announced this month to acquire Titanium Metals (TIE) for $2.9 billion should dramatically increase PCP's capabilities in supplying its customers with titanium products, an important metal in the aerospace business.