Citigroup Likes the Fit of Warren Buffett's Underwear

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Over the years, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A) has made a killing plying his value investing skills to uncover the less glamorous, but financially valuable companies, that have been passed over by the investing public.

For instance, some financial sector investors have put dead money into the likes of Citigroup ( C) and Bank of America ( BAC), missing out on a rally among traditional lenders like Wells Fargo ( WFC) that's served Buffett so well.

Others have chased boom and bust consumer goods giants, as the 'Oracle of Omaha' continues to reap big dividends from a multi-decade turnaround at Coca-Cola ( KO). In the tech sector, Buffett's put his money behind IBM ( IBM), avoiding the volatility of PC makers and hardware, and those who compete in web advertising.

It's no surprise then, that when investors and analysts uncover a stock in the mold of Buffett's value investing criteria, they're eager to attach his name to the stock, in a move to draw interest from an investing public that's easily distracted and prone to hype.

That's exactly the case with Hanesbrands ( HBI) and Citigroup's recent upgrade of the well-known, but unspectacular underwear and clothes manufacturer.

While the company's advertisements feature Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan, Citigroup analyst Susan Anderson saw reason to find a new pitchman for Hanesbrands stock. Yes, Michael Jordan's become one of the most recognizable athletes on earth for his high-flying dunks, but if you are trying to convince investors that a stock is a slam dunk 'Buy' - there's no better name to drop than Warren Buffett.

"Alert: How Can You Invest Like Warren Buffett...Buy HBI,' reads Anderson's Nov. 14 note detailing a conviction buy recommendation for Hanesbrands and a $37 price target, which the Citigroup analyst says may run to $50 over the long term.

While Anderson can be seen as renting Buffett's name to drive interest in a clothing company that trades less than 1 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a given day, the racy investing headline to the 'Buy' recommendation is borne out with analysis.

In particular, Anderson highlights Hanesbrands low price-to-earnings multiple of 10x versus competitors with a 13x average, the company's 18% free cash flow yield and its earnings per share growth profile as reason to believe the stock has potential to impress the investing public, and even Buffett.

Hanesbrands may see its earnings and cash flow grow in coming quarters as cotton commodity price headwinds turn to tailwinds, and the company gets a stronger management of its inventory and supply chain, according to Anderson. Rising free cash flow could help the company retire debt and use its growing cash hoard to lure in investors by way of a dividend or share buyback program, Anderson adds.

After the deleveraging we see Hanesbrands as a classic Warren Buffett investment - low debt, high free cash flow, high scale/market share, stable returns, and low cash usage...all for a cheap price, in our view," writes Anderson. The analyst notes that Buffett already owns Hanesbrands biggest competitor Fruit of the Loom.

Currently, the company is paring debt and implementing a strategy to increase prices and profit margins throughout its array of underwear and garment products, according to Anderson.

"We believe a solid dividend (barring changes to dividend taxes), share repurchases, and bolt-on acquisitions are all part of this strategy," the analyst adds.

Anderson gives Hanesbrands a $37 a share price target, but says the company could see shares rise as high as $50, were commodity price inflation to pass and earnings to grow as expected.

For more on actual Warren Buffett investments, see why Wells Fargo's generally mixed third-quarter earnings and a fall in key interest rate-based revenue that augurs poorly for 2013, the bank's largest investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A) faces one of his biggest post-crisis investing challenges.

Also see why improving earnings per share math at Goldman Sachs as may give Buffett reason to begin putting money behind the common stock of Wall Street titans.

In the third quarter, Berkshire Hathaway opened a position in machinery giant John Deere ( DE ) and the investing conglomerate pared most of what one was a multi-billion dollar stake in healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ )

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York