Warren Buffett’s incredible investing track record is why most investors watch his every move. The billionaire investor has led Berkshire Hathaway to a compound annual gain of nearly 20% over the past 57 years. That compares to a 9.9% gain for the S&P 500. Investors often follow Buffett when he buys or sells a particular stock — with the hope of winning over the long term just like this famous investor.
In the most recent quarter, Buffett made a few adjustments to Berkshire Hathaway holdings. And one of these moves was to cut its holding of healthcare company McKesson (MCK -0.38%) by 11%. If you want to score a long-term win like Buffett, should you follow? Let’s take a closer look.
It’s important to note that, during last year’s tough market, McKesson shined. The company outperformed the market by far, climbing more than 50%. This wasn’t a random gain. McKesson offered investors a few good reasons to invest during troubled economic times.
First, the company offers the safety of the healthcare industry without the big risk of drug or product failure in clinical development. McKesson doesn’t develop drugs. Its main business is the distribution of drugs and medical products.
Second, McKesson has made returning cash to shareholders a priority. In the first nine months of the fiscal year, it spent $3.5 billion on share buybacks and made $216 million in dividend payments. And the company says it will continue along this path as part of its general strategy.
Investors last year bet on a business with steady demand — and a company committed to delivering passive income to shareholders. It was a winning bet, as we can see by the share performance.
Now, let’s consider what’s ahead. McKesson has reached an interesting transition point. The company is exiting its European businesses and shifting its focus to high-growth areas. It announced the European exits early in the 2022 fiscal year. And by the third quarter of the fiscal 2023 year — the most recent quarter — it had already completed the divestment of all of them except Norway. That’s 11 out of 12 countries.
Favoring growth areas
These divestments have weighed on earnings to a certain degree — international revenue dropped in the third quarter year over year. But McKesson is set to benefit over the long term by favoring growth businesses, particularly in the area of oncology. This market presents an opportunity of $50 billion, according to McKesson.
The company has developed a variety of oncology offerings to help doctors and patients. For example, McKesson provides technology solutions to help doctors manage patient data and a portal where patients can access their information. The company also is making it easier for doctors and patients to connect with the appropriate clinical trials.
Last year, McKesson joined forces with HCA Healthcare‘s Sarah Cannon Research Institute in a new joint venture — the goal is to expand oncology clinical research and improve doctor and patient access to clinical studies.
McKesson also is focusing on biopharma services — another growth area. The company recently announced the acquisition of Rx Savings Solutions, a platform that helps health plans and employers find the best value when it comes to prescription drugs.
All of this suggests there is a lot more growth ahead for McKesson.
Should you follow Buffett?
Considering all of this, should you follow Buffett and sell McKesson? Not necessarily. It’s important to remember Berkshire Hathaway hasn’t sold all of its McKesson shares. It’s just reduced its position. This allowed the company to lock in some of last year’s gain — and continue betting on this great long-term company.
McKesson’s revenue and return on invested capital have generally increased over time. This bodes well for the company’s new focus and investments.
McKesson stock trades for a little more than 13 times forward earnings estimates. This looks reasonable considering the company’s track record and plans for the future. So, sure, if you’ve held McKesson shares for a while you may want to follow Buffett and sell a few — to lock in some gains. But overall, McKesson is more of a buy today than a sell.
Adria Cimino has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Berkshire Hathaway and HCA Healthcare. The Motley Fool recommends McKesson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.