If Warren Buffett were a quant, what would his perfect investing formula be and which stocks would he buy?
For the 88-year-old "Oracle of Omaha," stock picking has always been about finding the intrinsic value. He's long been a champion of long-term concentrated bets on big, value companies like Coca-Cola and Bank of America. But if one were to translate his investing gospel into specific quantitative factors and apply them to models powered by artificial intelligence, this is what his portfolio may look like.
Quantamize, a quantitative investment research firm, created a Buffett portfolio by screening the large-cap stock universe with traditional value factors like free cash flow and earnings yield as well as the element Buffett has been vocal about: economic value added.
The 20-stock portfolio turned out to be a mixture of traditional conglomerates Johnson & Johnson and Lockheed Martin that one could see Buffett owning, along with tech leaders Alphabet and eBay (which Buffett has typically avoided). There are some surprises on the list including gym chain Planet Fitness.
"It's almost like Warren Buffett meets Joel Greenblatt," said Stephen Mathai-Davis, Quantamize's chief investment officer. "If Warren Buffett were starting his career today, this is the portfolio he'd own which is a lot of these asset-lite businesses that are really focused on the cash flow generation."
Joel Greenblatt, founder of hedge fund Gotham Capital, famously had annual returns of 40% from 1985 to 2005 and then later created a stock screen called "Magic Formula Investing" so others could follow his style.
To find the best Buffett-like stocks, Quantamize used AI deep learning algorithms that pick stocks based on sell-side sentiment, Google searches, options and commodities data. Then the firm used AI clustering optimization technology to create different weights to the stocks to maximize returns.
"[Buffett]'s been transparent about what he uses. Economic valued added's a measure of the value being created for shareholders. It's the confidence he's held in a lot of companies where he's a core investor," Mathai-Davis said.
Economic value added is a complicated metric that seeks to show how much return a company is generating above its cost of capital.
Although it seems unlikely Buffett would own eBay or Alphabet given his usual aversion to tech stocks, he might be slowly warming up to the sector with his huge Apple stake. He also revealed Thursday that one of Berkshire Hathaway's investment managers has been buying shares of Amazon.
"Part of the issue here is that Buffet (and Munger) have missed out on many of the tech and consumer tech home runs over the past few years simply because they are completely new and disruptive companies," said Mathai-Davis. "If they are adding to Amazon, [it's] hard to argue against investing in the other dominant internet company who is also reshaping advertising, e-commerce, consumer tech, etc."