UK: Buying Barbour with Warren Buffett in mind.

UK: Buying Barbour with Warren Buffett in mind. - Bought at 315p, 425p barely six months later - Alistair Blair felt Warren Buffett would have been proud of his Barbour Index investment.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Bought at 315p, 425p barely six months later - Alistair Blair felt Warren Buffett would have been proud of his Barbour Index investment.

How would he react now it languishes at 210p?

I put my first equity portfolio together in late 1995, encouraged to do so by the satisfying glow of seeing my journalistic tips wafted upwards by the gathering bull market. A few weeks later I came across Warren Buffett's Letters to Shareholders. They caused me a nervous glance over my shoulder. Buffett wouldn't have chosen the waste company and he'd have been legless about the acquisitive engineer. But had Buffett been looking over my shoulder, I told myself, my investment in Barbour Index would have earned an encouraging nod. Not any more: bought at 315p, spotted at 425p barely six months later, my Barbour shares now languish at 210p.

The Barbour Index is a technical catalogue of building products. From ducts to taps, via fences and alarms, small manufacturers know that something more enduring than the odd sheet of product literature is needed if their products' details are to be at hand when the specifier is ready to specify.

So they pay to feature their products in the Barbour Index, which goes into 18,000 architects' and contractors' offices every year. This is a niche and Barbour dominates it.

When I came across the company it was putting the finishing touches to a Windows-based version of the Index, Construction Expert, which seemed set to consolidate Barbour's grip.

The problem has been that it took longer to launch than originally planned and was then returned to the development department to meet early buyers' suggested modifications. Even in July this year, all Barbour would say was, 'The programme of updating the service is now largely complete.' Very highly rated shares need a regular feed of very good news and that ain't it.

When I bought Barbour, it lacked one crucial element that Buffett would have demanded: it wasn't outstandingly underpriced. It might yet show it meets my test of having the potential to triple within a few years, but Buffett buys them cheaper than that.

What to do? To stay in. I reckon Barbour's honesty rating is intact and I feel Construction Expert is on the verge of doing the business.

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