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Is Hovnanian a Buffett-Style Bargain?

Hovnanian shares have come down from their high of almost $19 Friday, after getting a late-week boost from lots of speculation Warren Buffett might be interested in buying the beaten-back homebuilder as a value play. CNBC's Bob Pisani at the NYSE didn't think there was much to the talk, calling it a typical "slow Friday in July " rumor. Mad Money host Jim Cramer isn't a believer, either, saying Hovnanian is too small to be a likely Buffett target.

But the idea that Buffett might see value in the homebuilders continues to get some attention on the web. Sham Gad, a fan of Buffett's, writes on Motley Fool today that while he has no idea if Buffett really is interested in Hovnanian, it's still worth one's time to "pay close attention when you hear Buffett might be interested in a particular stock" .. and that means doing your own Buffett-style analysis to see if the supposed target might be a good buy.

When Gad looks at Hovnanian he sees some "Buffett-like" characteristics:

  • Homebuilding industry is totally out of favor on Wall Street with "low price-to-book ratios, healthy balance sheets, and historically low prices."
  • Hovnanian shares trading at almost the same price as five years ago, before the housing boom .. yet shareholder equity is up almost three-fold, book value and revenue have more than doubled
  • Hovnanian's chairman. Kevork S. Hovnanian, is its founder, and his son is CEO.
  • Insiders own over 27% of the stock which means "management clearly has a lot riding on the company's continued success."
  • "From a quality standpoint, Hovnanian is a well-run company. It just remains to be seen how well it can weather the storm."

Gad's bottom line: "Hovnanian and the rest of the homebuilding industry are experiencing just the type of storm that value investors like to see.

Tom Lydon of ETF Trends notes on SeekingAlpha that the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) is down almost 17% this year, "so hopefully it can only get better from here."

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Postscript: Warren Buffett has made another "top" list. Mellody Hobson, the Financial Contributor" at ABC's Good Morning America, puts Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist on her list of the "Six Books You Need to Make Money." She calls it "a page turner" and "more of a 'beach' read than you might think."

Enjoy the sun!

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com

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