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Tickers in this Article: BAM, BPO, BHS, BIP, L, NYSE:BRK-A, NYSE:BRK-B
Loews Corporation (NYSE:L) is one of America's great holding companies. Its founder, Laurence Tisch, has a truly fascinating story, filled with the intricacies of building a conglomerate with many tentacles, seemingly reaching into every part of American life - the path he took is almost unimaginable. History is littered with companies that have tried and failed to bring unrelated businesses under one roof that can work together successfully. For every Loews or Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) that's successful, there are many more that were colossal failures. One conglomerate that's seemingly making a go of it is Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM), which has four companies trading on the big board, with a fifth to come. IN PICTURES: Seven Ways To Position Yourself For Recovery

Brookfield Asset Management
This is the King of the Kingdom. It owns and manages assets around the world valued at over $80 billion, seeking to invest in property, power and other infrastructure projects with a goal of generating 12% long-term growth in cash flow per share. As one of the biggest property owners worldwide, it has over $38 billion in its real estate portfolio. Its hydro generation assets total $12 billion, and those should do well as energy prices continue to rise.

Other assets include $3.6 billion in timberlands, $3 billion in hydro transmission and $5 billion in real estate and bridge financing for institutional investors. the company is into a lot of stuff - but is it profitable? Yes, although 2008 was a tough year. It was the first time since 2001 that it didn't increase cash flow per share, seeing that drop from $3.11-2.33. 2009 seems to be more of the same. For the first six months of the year, its cash flow per share dropped 31%, to 92 cents from $1.34. However, CEO Bruce Flatt seemed unconcerned about the drop (it has approximately $1.5 billion in free cash flow annually) during the first half, suggesting it is in a good position to pounce should an attractive investment opportunity present itself. (Learn to analyze cash flow in our article Analyze Cash Flow The Easy Way.)

Properties (NYSE:BPO)
Brookfield Properties is a company with a storied past. Originally named the Canadian Arena Corporation, it goes all the way back to 1924 when it built the Montreal Forum, the long-time home of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team. Its big break came in the 1990s when the recession enabled it to gobble up prime real estate in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Toronto. Today, it holds interests in 108 properties with over 75 million square feet of office space. Currently, it has $1.1 billion in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet with another $688 million in revolving credit available through 2011. In mid-August, Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times reported that it was raising $900 million through a public offering of $450 million as well as a private sale for the remainder.

Brookfield Asset Management will be buying part of the public offering to maintain its 51% voting control of Brookfield Properties. Its latest endeavor will be to take $1 billion of its own money, along with $4 billion from other investors, and put it to work in underperforming real estate assets in the UK and elsewhere. Given Britain's been hit equally hard by this recession it makes abundant sense to go deal hunting over there.

The Rest of the Clan
The two remaining public companies, Brookfield Homes (NYSE:BHS) and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. (NYSE:BIP), are both smaller players in the Brookfield portfolio. Combined, they have an enterprise value of $1.1 billion, which pales in comparison to the $61 billion for its two big brothers. Brookfield Asset Management owns 63% of the homes division, which is floating under water although it appears the worst is behind it. It might even make a profit in 2010.

As for the Infrastructure unit, it's profitable, generating adjusted net operating income in 2008 of $63.3 million, up from $52.2 million a year earlier. The last of the Brookfield units has yet to go public. Brookfield Realty Capital is looking for $500 million this fall to make commercial mortgage loans with its parent as the asset manager. (For additional reading, check out The Emergence Of Global Real Estate.)

The Bottom Line
It seems to be more beneficial to go to the source and buy the parent company, where the tentacles begin. Brookfield Asset Management isn't quite Loews, but it's interesting just the same.

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