Famed investor Warren E. Buffett seems pretty stuck on Phillips 66 (PSX) .
So far this year, Berkshire Hathaway, of which he is chief executive, has invested more than $1 billion in the energy company. With a 15.4% stake, Berkshire Hathaway is Phillips 66's largest shareholder.
But Phillips 66's stock has plateaued.
What does the Oracle of Omaha know that other investors don't?
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The profits that he has made by snapping up stakes in financial services companies such as American Express, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have been nothing short of stunning. The investors who piggyback on Buffett's plays have had the opportunity to do just as well.
But Phillips 66's stock has remained relatively flat over the past 12 months.
However, the "Buffett factor," or the benefit of having Berkshire Hathaway invested in the company, has helped Phillips 66 control losses, while rival refiners such as Marathon Petroleum (down more than 15%), Tesoro (down more than 20%) and Valero Energy (VLO) (down more than 19%) are having a difficult year.
Buffett is buying Phillips 66 for a number of reasons.
First, as analysts at Cowen have pointed out, Phillips 66 will reach a cash flow inflection point in 2017 to 2018.
Second, Phillips 66 is also scheduled to see growth in liquefied petroleum gas sales after the commissioning of the Freeport LPG project later this year. In return, this will allow the company to export LPG from its Sweeny complex.
However, Phillips 66's earnings scorecard has been dismal this year.
Analysts expect a year-over-year earnings decline of 55.9% this year, accompanied by an 11.4% drop in revenue.
Refining is a cyclical business, and the best time to get in is when times are tough.
Energy prices continue to stay low but are a tad higher than they were a few months ago. For investors looking for income, Phillips 66 has a solid track record of four straight years of dividend growth, with a yield of more than 3%.
Phillips 66 is one of just a handful of energy stocks that have weathered the energy price storm.
With manageable debt levels and a strong recovery looking likely, Phillips 66 is a smart investment. No wonder Buffett is loading up.
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