Where can you buy large quantities of food at wholesale cost? It would appear you can on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. That is because Archer Daniels Midland (ADM +0.18%) is selling for less than book value.
It's hard to believe that would be the case in a world with food shortages, inadequate distribution, insufficient arid land, high demand for potable water and seasonal weather patterns wreaking havoc on farmland in the United States, Russia and Africa. But it is.
On Wednesday, ADM closed down for the day, dropping below $27 to finish at $26.84 with a price-to-book of 0.98. Obviously, this is one boring stock. So much so that there has been speculation that cheap and boring might make it a target of the king of boring, Warren Buffett.
Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A +2.42%) has the cash and is on the prowl. Having a market cap of just under $18 billion makes ADM just about the perfect size target. Its largest rival, Cargill, is privately held.
It is speculation whether ADM might be an acquisition target. Nevertheless, this might be a good time for the average investor, if there is such a thing, to take a look. If you are interested in a large cap stock paying a dividend yield of 2.6% with a very manageable payout ratio of 37%, sporting a puny price-to-sales of 0.20 then this stock is for you. When the market is nearing new highs and the global economy is in tatters it also makes sense to consider rotating out of more volatile stocks into an old dependable.
There are piles of cash that small investors have pulled from the market still sitting on the sidelines. Archer Daniels Midland offers a relatively safe way to re-enter the market. The dividend also makes it a good long-term alternative to bonds, which at current interest rate levels are not a safe place and will not hold their value.
So, what is not to like? For one thing, ADM's net profit margin of 1.06% is teetering on non-existent. The return-on-equity of 5.24% is less than desirable and less than I would normally accept. However, sometimes safety is warranted over the flash of an Apple (AAPL -0.44%), Google (GOOG +0.10%) or Facebook (FB -1.43%), which may indeed underperform the market in the coming year just as ADM is turning around.
For small investors, yield seekers and market bears, boring may be exactly what is needed. In the storm ravaged northeastern U.S. I am sure boring is exactly what they need right now.