Pick: Markel (MKL)
Before launching the Akre Focus Fund (AKREX) in 2009, Chuck Akre led the FBR Focus Fund (FBRVX), which averaged scorching 12.6% annual returns for more than a decade. His new fund isn't doing too shabbily either: Akre Focus, which has $945 million in assets, has returned 13.5% a year since its inception, beating the S&P 500's annual return by three percentage points. Akre's top recommendation is Markel, a property and casualty insurer whose shares he has owned for more than two decades. Although Markel's growth has slowed recently, Akre expects the trend to reverse in coming years. Interest rates will eventually rise, he says, which will boost profits in Markel's $9 billion investment portfolio. The stock is priced at 1.2 times book value, slightly less than the average for property and casualty insurers, and it has another potential source of growth: a Berkshire Hathaway-style holding company that invests in small businesses like furniture manufacturers. Says Akre: "That's an extra arrow in their quiver of creating value."
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