Tricks for Spotting Neff-Type Bargains

In a recent column for Bloomberg, John Dorfman channels John Neff, who compiled one of the best track records ever while managing the Windsor Fund for more than three decades.

“One of Neff’s techniques that I like is scouring the list of stocks that have reached 52-week lows,” Dorfmnan explains. “In his book ‘John Neff on Investing,’ Neff notes that some companies hitting new lows will have to endure ‘more dismal days.’ Others, though, are ‘solid companies worth investigating.'”

Dorfman looks at a trio of stocks that recently made new lows, including tech giant Cisco Systems, and offers his take on whether they in for more “dismal days”, or “worth investigating”. He also examines other jumping off points Neff used when analyzing a stock. “Scouring the new-lows list was, of course, only one of many techniques in Neff’s arsenal,” he says. “For example, he liked to buy companies whose stock was depressed by excessive fear about pending legal problems. He also liked companies that were misunderstood, such as Germany’s Bayer AG, which traded like a chemical company but got a third of its earnings from pharmaceuticals.”

Today, Dorfman says, a similar situation may exist with Washington Post Co. While it’s known as a newspaper company, the Post actually gets most of its revenue from the Kaplan for-profit school chain.

Dorfman also talks about what he says may have been  the most important piece of Neff’s approach: his refusal to follow the crowd.

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