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Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
Market capitalization: $196.1 billion
Write-offs since 2005: 0%
Debt to capital ratio: 22%

It's no surprise that Berkshire Hathaway topped our list. That's because CEO Warren Buffett, "The Oracle of Omaha," guided his holding company through more than just one recession. In fact, the company has returned 21.1% a year since Buffett took over in 1965. The S&P 500 "only" returned 10.3% over the same period.

At first glance, it looks like Berkshire could be headed for some tough times ahead. It owns car insurance company Geico and the insurance industry has taken a bit of a hit recently. Buffett was a bit cautious about short-term growth after Berkshire reported its 2007 results and the company had some limited, indirect subprime exposure through holdings of Wells Fargo, Moody's, and American Express.

But Berkshire has about $50 to 60 billion in cash, and is very well diversified. The holding company owns 70 companies outright, so it easily weathered the economic storm.

"This company has an unbelievable track record -- the best that I know of over the past 40 years," said Keppler Asset management CIO Michael Keppler, who runs a mutual fund for which Berkshire is its top holding. Keppler expects Berkshire to continue beating the market.

But before you run to your nearest broker, potential investors should be warned that one share costs about $130,000. Even the less expensive Berkshire "B" stock is trading around $4,500. But if you can't afford the steep asking price, there are hundreds of much more affordable mutual funds available in which Berkshire Hathaway is a top holding.

NEXT: Royal Bank of Canada
Last updated June 04 2008: 1:46 PM ET
Source: Thomson Baseline

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