Monthly Archives: February 2018

Warren Buffett on a stock buy so good, “that I’m actually starting to remember that it was my idea.”

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Berkshire Hathaway’s investment in Chinese new energy company BYD has worked out so well that it’s now among the company’s top fifteen stock holdings.

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has grown almost ten-fold in just a decade.

Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million is now worth roughly $1.96 billion.

Whose idea was it to purchase a stake in the company?

“Charlie (Munger) called me one day and says, ‘We’ve got to buy BYD. This guy that runs it is better than Thomas Edison,’ Warren Buffett explained while appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “And I said, ‘That isn’t good enough.’ And then he called a little later and said, ‘He’s a combination of Edison and Bill Gates.’ And I said, ‘Well, you’re warming up but it still isn’t good enough.’ Anyway, Charlie wanted to do it. Now, it’s worked out so well that I’m actually starting to remember that it was my idea. As it’s coming back to me. I think I persuaded Charlie. But unfortunately I’m on the record that it’s his deal. But BYD, Charlie’s in love with the company, and it’s done very well. And the fellow that runs it, you know who’s autos and batteries, but he’s got big, big ideas and he’s very good at executing. So, but I leave it to Charlie.”

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire’s Insurance Losses from Hurricane Season ran to $3 Billion

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Last fall’s spate of three mega-catastrophe hurricanes that hit the U.S. has led to billion dollar losses for Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance companies.

“We currently estimate Berkshire’s losses from the three hurricanes to be $3 billion (or about $2 billion after tax),” Warren Buffett stated in his annual letter to shareholders. “If both that estimate and my industry estimate of $100 billion are close to accurate, our share of the industry loss was about 3%. I believe that percentage is also what we may reasonably expect to be our share of losses in future American mega-cats.”

Despite the scale of the disasters, Buffett noted that the impact on Berkshire was minor, with it reducing Berkshire’s GAAP net worth by less than 1%.

He went on to note that other reinsurers “suffered losses in net worth ranging from 7% to more than 15%.”

Buffett wrote that a mega-catastrophe hurricane that caused $400 billion in damage, which the company estimates has a 2% probability annually, would see Berkshire incurring losses in the $12 billion range.

A loss of that magnitude would in no way jeopardize the conglomerate, as it is below the annual income generated by Berkshire’s non-insurance activities.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Buffett Decries Effects of New GAAP Accounting Rule

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Warren Buffett warned in in his annual letter to shareholders that a new GAAP accounting rule on unrealized capital gains would lead to “truly wild and capricious swings in our GAAP bottom-line.”

The rule impacts Berkshire’s Hathaway’s portfolio of $170 billion in marketable stocks, not including the company’s shares of Kraft Heinz.

“For analytical purposes, Berkshire’s ‘bottom-line’ will be useless,” Buffett warned, noting that swings in Berkshire’s equity holdings could obscure the actual performance of its operating companies.

“The new rule compounds the communication problems we have long had in dealing with the realized gains (or losses) that accounting rules compel us to include in our net income,” Buffett wrote. “In past quarterly and annual press releases, we have regularly warned you not to pay attention to these realized gains, because they – just like our unrealized gains – fluctuate randomly.”

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire’s Per Share Book Value Soared 23% in 2017

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Despite losses from three mega-catastrophe hurricanes that hit the U.S. in the fall of 2017, Berkshire Hathaway’s per share book value still rose by 23% in 2017, Warren Buffett noted in his annual letter to shareholders.

Of the total gain of $63 billion, $36 billion were generated by Berkshire’s operations, and $29 billion resulted from the impact of the recently passed tax bill.

Buffett wrote that Berkshire’s disaster-related reinsurance losses, which ran to $3 billion, reduced the company’s GAAP net worth by less than 1%.

Among the company’s ongoing operations, the 2017 earnings from BNSF Railway rose 11% over 2016 levels to roughly $4 billion, and Clayton Homes’ revenues grew to $5.0 billion in 2017, up $780 million (18%) from 2016.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Warren Buffett Steps Down from Kraft Heinz Board of Directors

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The Kraft Heinz Company has announced that Warren Buffett will retire from the Company’s Board of Directors following the end of his term at the upcoming Kraft Heinz 2018 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.

Mr. Buffett decided to retire from the Board as he decreases his travel commitments. The Company also announced that the Board of Directors intends to nominate Alexandre Van Damme to stand for election at the 2018 Annual Meeting to fill Mr. Buffett’s vacancy.

“It has been an honor to work with Warren for the past five years,” said Alex Behring, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “His many invaluable contributions to Kraft Heinz will have a lasting impact on the Company for years to come. The Board of Directors looks forward to his continued partnership as Chairman of our largest shareholder, Berkshire Hathaway. We are thrilled to add Alexandre’s expertise and perspective to Kraft Heinz, and believe that his executive experience and leadership will be extremely valuable to the Board, our leadership and company as a whole.”

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter to Shareholders to be Released Saturday

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Tomorrow is the big day for Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders.

Berkshire Hathaway’s 2017 Annual Report to the shareholders will be posted on the Internet on Saturday, February 24, 2018, at approximately 8:00 a.m. eastern time where it can be accessed at www.berkshirehathaway.com.

The Annual Report will include Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders as well as information about Berkshire’s financial position and results of operations.

Concurrent with the posting of the Annual Report, Berkshire will also issue an earnings release.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Rocky Mountain Power to Construct Four New Wind Farms

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Rocky Mountain Power has chosen four new wind projects to fulfill its planned expansion of the amount of wind energy serving customers by 2020.

The four projects will expand Rocky Mountain Power’s owned and contracted wind power by more than 60%, and add enough new wind energy to power approximately 450,000 average homes.

The bids were selected following a request for proposal (RFP) issued in September 2017. The RFP establishes a competitive bidding process for the company to select the most cost-effective new wind projects.

The four selected projects are:

  • A 400-MW wind project in Converse County, Wyoming, which will be built by NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, with half of the project owned by PacifiCorp, and half of the project owned and delivered by NextEra under a Power Purchase Agreement.
  • A 161-MW wind project in Uinta County, Wyoming, which will be built by Invenergy, LLC, and owned and operated by PacifiCorp.
  • A 500-MW wind project in Carbon and Albany Counties, Wyoming, which will be built, owned and operated by PacifiCorp.
  • A 250-MW wind project in Carbon County, Wyoming, which will be built, owned and operated by PacifiCorp.

“The new wind projects are part of the company’s Energy Vision 2020 initiative, which will significantly expand the company’s Wyoming wind fleet and benefit the state and local economies,” said Cindy A. Crane, Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO. “The project also includes a 140-mile segment of the Gateway West high-voltage transmission line in Wyoming to connect the new wind energy to Rocky Mountain Power’s grid.”

The cost of the four new wind projects is estimated at approximately $1.5 billion, which is significantly less on a per-megawatt basis than when the new wind and transmission plan was first announced last April. The per-megawatt reduction in project costs helps make the Energy Vision 2020 initiative lower cost compared to other resource alternatives, such as energy market purchases, to meet forecasted customer energy needs.

The projects are also expected to:

  • Create between 1,100 and 1,600 construction jobs in Wyoming and more than 200 full-time positions;
  • Add approximately $120 million in tax revenue from construction; and
  • Bring significant post-construction annual tax revenues starting at approximately $11 million in 2021 and growing to $14 million annually by 2024.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Commentary: Death of Retail? Grandscape Says Not So Fast

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“Retail is dead,” proclaims just about every financial headline these days, but Berkshire Hathaway continues to prove that wrong as it builds out Grandscape, a 400+ acre development featuring over 3 million square feet of retail, entertainment, dining, residential, office and attractions.

Anchored by Berkshire’s Nebraska Furniture Mart, which alone takes up 100 acres and has a 560,000 square foot retail showroom, Grandscape continues to use the bigger is better philosophy.

It’s a philosophy that’s attractive to other retailers that don’t want to simply bemoan the death of the bricks-and-mortar retail experience as a casualty of the internet.

The latest retailer to break ground at the development is SCHEELS, which is constructing a two-level, 331,000 square foot building that will be the largest All Sports Store in the world.

“After more than 10 years studying the Texas market, we found a great location to build our largest store yet,” said Steve D. Scheel, SCHEELS Chairman of the Board. “This one-of-a-kind retail adventure will attract sports enthusiasts, outdoor explorers and shoppers seeking a wide variety of fashion, footwear and homegoods. We are excited to bring our expertise and enthusiasm to Texas for the first time.”

In keeping with the trend to make shopping more experiential, SCHEELS will have a 65-foot, 16-car operating Ferris Wheel, a 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium with more than 600 fish, and a wildlife mountain. Shoppers will get the chance to try out interactive arcade games and sports simulators.

Berkshire continues to believe in the retail experience, even as it is forced to evolve from the days of strip malls and malls with department stores as anchor tenants, and its $1.5 billion investment in Grandscape shows its putting its money where its mouth is.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets Subsidiary Acquires Cerretani Aviation Group

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QS Partners, the aircraft brokerage subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets, has acquired aircraft brokers Cerretani Aviation Group of Boulder, Colorado.

QS Partners was launched in 2016 to meet what NetJets called “a growing need from our clients regarding whole-aircraft sales and trades and leveraging NetJets’ global network of resources…”

With the acquisition of Cerretani Aviation Group, the company will more than double its size.

In a release, Nick Cerretani and Paul Kirby said, “We are pleased to announce that Cerretani Aviation Group has merged with QS Partners, a leading aircraft sales company composed of individuals with whom we share a commitment to integrity, knowledge, and insightful service to our clients. While we will operate under the QS Partners brand, we will remain based in Boulder, Colorado, and will retain all of our current staff.

Our merger with QS Partners will enable us to significantly expand our industry reach and enhance transactional opportunities for our clients, whether buying or selling. At the same time, we are aware of the foundations of our success and will focus on providing our clients the personal attention and independent thinking they have come to expect from Cerretani Aviation Group.”

The Cerretani Aviation Group was founded in 2001 by Nick Cerretani, a former Executive VP at Flight Options, and Paul Kirby, co-founder of Kirby Ramsey Aviation.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Benjamin Moore Awarded for its Supply Chain Academy at SCM World

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Benjamin Moore & Co., was awarded accolades in the fourth annual SCM World Power of Profession Awards.

SCM World, a Gartner community, recognized the company with its Talent Payback of the Year and Talent Breakthrough of the Year awards.

This recognition acknowledges the efforts by Benjamin Moore & Co. to transform and modernize its entire supply chain, increase employee retention and improve employee engagement. Benjamin Moore & Co. was selected out of six finalists within the Talent Breakthrough of the Year category.

“We are honored to be recognized by our peers at SCM World and to be among a remarkable list of companies awarded for its efforts in supply chain initiatives,” said Barry Chadwick, Benjamin Moore Executive Vice President Operations. “This recognition represents the efforts our employees put in every day to advance their knowledge and improve the Benjamin Moore & Co. customer experience.”

According to the company, Benjamin Moore & Co. has made significant efforts to transform and modernize its entire supply chain, including a transition to a world-class enterprise resource planning system and a successful Supply Chain Academy initiative that led to the promotion of 22% of its salaried employees and an 85% retention rate.

To date, nearly 336 Benjamin Moore & Co. employees have taken advantage of this program. Employee engagement results have increased 10% year-over-year and exceeded the Conference Executive Board Global High Performing Norm in every category.

The SCM World Power of Profession Awards identify, recognize and enable collective learning from the most impactful and innovative supply chain initiatives.

The awards are unique in that they are voted on by fellow supply chain professionals, providing a chance to share lessons and best practices, and shape the future of supply chain.

The winners were announced February 6th at an award ceremony, held as part of the SCM World Live Americas conference in Miami.

Other award winners included Pfizer, 3M, Land O’Lakes, Schneider Electric and P&G.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.