Tag Archives: Warren Buffett

Commentary: Buffett Not the Only Billionaire into Restaurant Brands International

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

One of Warren Buffett’s best deals in recent years was his 2014 financing of Burger King’s acquisition of Canadian Restaurant Chain Tim Hortons.

The deal was financed by Berkshire Hathaway, and Berkshire’s role gave the conglomerate ownership and control over 4.18% of the outstanding Common Shares and 14.37% of the total number of votes attached to all outstanding voting shares of the newly created Restaurant Brands International.

The company has continued to grow, and in 2017 gobbled up Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for $1.8 billion.

What made the deal one of Buffett’s best was Berkshire’s right to purchase 8,438,225 common shares of Restaurant Brands for a penny a share. The warrants came attached to 68,530,939 Class A 9.00% Cumulative Compounding Perpetual Preferred Shares that Berkshire acquired during the financing.

Berkshire has been sitting in the catbird seat, and with Restaurant Brands’ stock currently at $62.77 a share, Buffett is ahead a remarkable 620,770%.

It’s a reminder that Buffett is not just a great stock picker, he’s one the greatest dealmakers.

Restaurant Brands International, which trades under the symbol QSR, was trading in the $40s when the company was formed, and is still drawing interest at prices fifty percent higher than that.

Billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin has amassed 4.6 million shares of Restaurant Brands’ stock.

Griffin has been ranked as the 52nd richest person in America, and his Citadel LLC has developed a reputation for astute investments.

Griffin got his investing start in 1987, when as a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, he started trading from his dorm room with a fax machine, a personal computer, and a telephone.

© 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.

Revised Berkshire Hathaway Stock Repurchase Program Makes Stock Buyback More Likely

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

In a move that makes a Berkshire Hathaway stock buyback much more likely, the Board of Directors of Berkshire Hathaway has authorized an amendment to Berkshire’s share repurchase program.

The earlier share repurchase program provided that the price paid for repurchases would not exceed a 20% premium over the then-current book value of such shares.

Under the amendment adopted by the Board of Directors, share repurchases can be made at any time that both Warren Buffett, Berkshire’s Chairman and CEO, and Charlie Munger, a Berkshire Vice Chairman, believe that the repurchase price is below Berkshire’s intrinsic value, conservatively determined.

The current policy whereby share repurchases will not be made if they would reduce the value of Berkshire’s consolidated cash, cash equivalents and U.S. Treasury Bills holdings below $20 billion will continue. Berkshire will not initiate any share repurchases under the amended program until it publicly releases its second quarter earnings, currently scheduled after the close of the markets on Friday, August 3, 2018.

© 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 Converts Shares, Makes Multi-Billion Charitable Donations

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Warren Buffett is a generous guy. He’s made a massive fortune and now he’s giving much of it away. Buffett has converted 11,867 of his Class A shares into 17,800,500 Class B shares.

Of these Class B shares, 17,696,780 have been donated to five foundations: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation. These shares have a current value of $3.4 billion.

Buffett has never sold any shares of Berkshire. With the current gift, however, about 43% of his 2006 holdings have been given to the five foundations.

Their value at the time of the gifts, including the 2018 gift, totals about $31 billion.

Buffett is following his plan to have all of his Berkshire shares given to philanthropy through annual gifts that will be completed ten years after his estate is settled. In all cases, his A shares will first be converted into B shares immediately prior to the gift.

© 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 Finally Cashes Out of USG

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

After 17 years riding USG’s stock up and down, Warren Buffett is finally going to cash out with a profit.

Gebr. Knauf KG and USG Corporation have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Knauf will acquire all of the outstanding shares of USG in a transaction valued at approximately $7.0 billion.

Under the terms of the agreement, USG shareholders will receive $44.00 per share, which consists of $43.50 per share in cash payable upon closing of the transaction and a $0.50 per share special dividend that would be paid following shareholder approval of the transaction.

The price represents a premium of 31% to USG’s unaffected closing price of $33.51 and a 36% premium to the $32.36 average closing price for the preceding 12-month period, both as of March 23, 2018, and a multiple of approximately 11.6x USG’s adjusted EBITDA for the 12 months ended March 31, 2018.

The transaction was unanimously approved by USG’s Board of Directors.

Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to vote its shares in favor of the transaction. As of June 11, 2018, Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiaries owns approximately 31% of the issued and outstanding shares of USG.

While Berkshire will exit its position with a profit, Warren Buffett had previously expressed his disappointment with the fortunes of the company.

“So just put that one down as not one of our brilliant ideas,” Buffett said. “Not a disaster,” he added.

© 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 Realistic on Autonomous Cars Negative Impact on Auto Insurers

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

With GEICO Insurance one of Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest assets and moneymakers, the impact of autonomous vehicles on insurance rates will play a big role on future profitability in the auto insurance sector.

Clearly, Warren Buffett is realistic that a world with safer cars will mean declining rates.

While noting that replacement parts of cars are far more expensive than years ago, ultimately Buffett sees a decline in rates due to fewer collisions.

“…A safer car is going to bring lower insurance rates,” Buffett said while appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box the Monday after Berkshire’s annual meeting. “There’s one some– there’s– modest offset to that in that, in terms of collision activity– the damage is done to a car by in terms of a bumper or a side rearview mirror something. Costs far more now, it’s a much more complex product. So the damage per accident, not human damage, but physical damage to the car, that will probably go up substantially. But the number of accidents won’t– you won’t see widespread adoption unless they’re safer. And we want a safer car. So it’s net, it will be bad for the auto insurance industry over time if autonomous cars become a big part of the fleet.”

Buffett also noted that the exact timeframe that autonomous vehicles will have a big impact on rates is hard to know, as there will still be a lot of nonautonomous vehicles on the road for years to come.

“Well, it– we don’t know, I mean, what it’ll be. And you’ve got 260 million cars on the road. Let’s just say that 10% of the people took up– autonomous cars in a year. Now you’re talking about– a million eight outta the 18 million. And– there’s– a big life cycle to it and all that. But what does best for the consumer and is safer over time really will prevail– over time,” Buffett said.

Currently, GEICO insures more than 24 million vehicles in the United States.

© 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: Warren Buffett is Right About Bitcoin

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

“Bitcoin is like rat poison squared,” Warren Buffett said during the 2018 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. The comment got a positive response from the tens of thousands that packed the CenturyLink Center’s arena.

That Buffett, and Berkshire’s vice-chairman Charlie Munger, are down on cryptocurrencies is no surprise. As the world’s leading value investors, speculative assets are exactly the things they avoid.

While the “rat poison,” comment did not come with a detailed explanation, it easily ties in with a major point that Buffett hammered home at the beginning of the meeting.

After showing the audience the front page of a newspaper from 1942, Buffett talked about the first three shares of stock that he ever bought when he was age 12, which was a company called Cities Service. He showed how his impatience and quickness to denied the far greater amount he would have made if he had been patient and held the shares long term.

Buffett again returned to the 1942 date to make a completely different point.

Buffett detailed what would have happened to an investment of $10,000 in gold on that date, as compared to $10,000 in what would have been an index of the S&P 500, if it had existed at that date. While 300 ounces of gold would have grown to a worth of $400,000 today, the shares of the S&P 500 stocks would have grown to a vastly greater sum of $51 million.

That’s the difference been a nonproductive asset and a productive asset, Buffett explained. Even after all the decades went by, the gold would still be only 300 ounces. It wouldn’t have grown. But the productive assets of the S&P 500 stocks have the capacity to grow because they represent businesses that produce goods and provide services.

“For every dollar you could have made in American business, you’d have less than a penny of gain by buying into a store of value which people tell you to run to every time you get scared by the headlines,” Buffett explained.

It’s all about nonproductive assets versus productive assets.

“While the businesses were reinvesting in more plants and new inventions came along, you would look into your safety deposit box, and you’ve have your 300 ounces of gold,” Buffett mused, “And you would look at it, and you could fondle it, I mean, whatever you wanted to do with it. But it didn’t produce anything. It was never going to produce anything. And what would you have today? You would have 300 ounces of gold just like you had in March of 1942, and it would be worth approximately $400,000.”

In the end, gold versus stocks, over a great length of time, is not even close.

“In other words, for every dollar you could have made in American business, you’d have less than a penny of gain by buying into a store of value which people tell you to run to every time you get scared by the headlines,” Buffett said.

While Buffett’s nonproductive asset versus productive asset lecture was using gold as the example, it could have just as easily been about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Here’s where you get my commentary

People that tout Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are really believers in the rise of a nonproductive asset that is no different than gold, silver, or the alligator infested swamp land offered during the Florida land speculation of the 1920s. Cryptocurrencies are an asset that is moving up or down daily based on what Benjamin Graham would have called speculation, and what can also be called gambling.

Naysayers will talk about the unique properties of blockchain, supposed anonymity of cryptocurrencies, and other virtues of virtual currencies that show its utility, but to do that is to ignore that these assets are not being bought and used as currency, which after all is a medium of exchange between two parties.

Let’s pretend that a significant number of people were converting their dollars or euros, or other currencies into Bitcoin and then going out and buying houses, or cars, or diamonds with it. The last thing a recipient of a Bitcoin transaction would want to do is sell their house today and find that the value of the medium of exchange had dropped 5%, 10%, or more the day after their real estate transaction.

Let’s look at another key aspect Bitcoin. It’s inflated in value at an astronomical rate. This is what has everyone so excited about it. You can become a cryptocurrency millionaire or billionaire overnight without doing anything.

This extreme bidding upward in the marketplace is not a feature of currencies. It is a feature of speculative fevers reminiscent of the Dutch Tulip Mania of the 1500s.

While historically currencies have periodically plunged in value due to hyper-inflation. We need just look at Weimar Republic Germany, 1980s Argentina, or Venezuela today to see that phenomenon, the same process does not happen in reverse.

There’s a simple explanation for that. Plunging values for currencies reflect a lack of faith in a currency as a method of exchange. The more extreme that pessimism, the more currency it takes to overcome it.

But, currencies of the more sound variety, which in essence have more faith placed in them by creditors, do not get bouts of extreme faith that shoot them up astronomically. They increase or decrease in a much narrower range.

Accepting Bitcoin as a currency is no different than asking to get paid in casino chips or lottery tickets. You are hoping for a second transaction to determine its value. At the casino it’s spinning the roulette wheel, and with Cryptocurrencies it’s betting in the marketplace someone will pay you more for your Bitcoins than the valuation you got them at.

All speculative bubbles are full of enablers. They are so-called experts that tell you why this time is different, hucksters telling the masses not to be left out, and true believers that have adopted the asset as a religion.

It’s best to remember that speculative fevers are not just a remnant of the distant past. In the late-1990s, a plush toy called a Beenie Baby became the focal point of a speculative fever. Suddenly, an asset that’s main utility was as an occupant of a child’s toy box, was being hoarded by everyone and their brother. Prices soared, certain $5 Beenie Babies were going for $5,000, and one obsessed man planned to pay his children’s college education based on the anticipated rise in value of his plush portfolio. The strategy did not work out well.

As for Bitcoin, while players such as Goldman Sachs are actively looking to make money off of people trading cryptocurrencies, Warren Buffet rightly expressed his skepticism that such a move represented any kind of endorsement of the soundness of the strategy.

“I would be very surprised if the top partners of Goldman are selling their Goldman stock and putting it into Bitcoin,” Buffett said on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

It’s a familiar tale that always has a sad ending for all but a few. Just ask the man who lost $100,000 hoarding Beenie Babies.

Buffett’s rat poison comment is true. However, rat poison kills rats. Speculative fevers kill the hopes, dreams, and lives of investors.

© 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: Buffett Unlikely to Abandon BYD

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

With Chinese new energy company BYD seeing a major slump in its share price, its important to remember that Warren Buffett’s belief in the company’s founder and CEO Wang Chuanfu makes it more likely that Buffett will buy more shares, or at least maintain Berkshire’s current position than abandon the investment.

BYD’s share price peaked at 83.70HKD in October 2017 and as of May 2 has slumped to 54.00HKD.

Berkshire’s still way ahead, as its cost basis per share was 8.00 HKD. Berkshire took its position in 2008 when it purchased 225 million shares at roughly 8.00KHD.

Whose idea was it to purchase a stake in the company? It wasn’t Buffett’s, but he has since become a big fan.

“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 on Feb 26, 2018. “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.”

Stock prices go up and down, but Buffett has always been the most patient of investors.

With BYD having sold 13,000 of its plug-in electric cars in March alone, and aiming to sell between 15,000 and 20,000 cars per month when its new model year debuts, it continues to be the leader in EV cars.

The sales marked an increase of 116% year-over-year and were 31% of the total BYD car sales for the month.

BYD was number one worldwide in plug-in electric vehicle sales in 2017, its third consecutive year.

Additionally, its dominance in the Pure electric bus market continues to grow. The company sold over 14,000 pure electric buses globally in 2017.

It’s unlikely that Buffett’s or Munger’s respect for the company will change due to short-term price fluctuations and investors should be reminded that BYD’s stock price had a similar plunge in 2014 that saw no selling by Berkshire.

I’m not calling this one of Buffett’s forever stocks, but it would seem to fit one of his classic buy-and-hold investments, and it is unlikely to leave Berkshire’s portfolio anytime soon.

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.

Commentary: Is the Time at Hand for Berkshire to Cash Out of USG?

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Gypsum rock and plaster manufacturer United States Gypsum Company soared today as news that Warren Buffett had offered Berkshire Hathaway’s 30% stake in the company to USG’s other major minority stakeholder, Knauf Entities.

Knauf has long been a potential suitor of USG, and was interested in acquiring the company as far back as 2000, when Berkshire first took a 14% stake.

Berkshire reportedly offered its shares to Knauf at $42 per share, which was roughly 19% above the stock’s closing price on Friday, March 23.

USG’s Board of Directors’ weighed in with their own statement, as they moved to squash the deal.

“The board carefully evaluated it and determined that it substantially undervalues the company and is not in the best interests of all of USG’s shareholders.”

Instead, they suggested that its own plans would be the best way to boost shareholder value.

One thing seems clear, after 17 years riding this stock up and down, Buffett is finally ready to move on.

If it does complete the deal with Knauf, not only would Berkshire make money on its investment, but it’s already made a lot of money even though the stock does not pay a dividend.

The Great Recession, USG and Berkshire

Berkshire played a key role in saving USG during the nadir of the Great Recession.

In 2008, with the housing market imploding and lending all but frozen, Berkshire came to USG’s rescue with $300 million of convertible notes that paid Berkshire 10-percent interest.

At the time, the boost in confidence the company received from Warren Buffett’s financing helped the company avoid another bankruptcy. The day of transaction the stock soared 22% to $6.89 a share.

Today, the stock is hovering around $40 per share.

Berkshire has not only profited from the healthy interest payments, but the stock’s appreciation as well.

In December 2013, Berkshire exchanged $243.8 million of the convertible notes for common stock, and with additional purchases its stake in USG now sits at roughly 30.8%.

Back in 2015 and again in 2016, I wrote that perhaps it was time for Berkshire to buy the rest of USG, as the housing market had revived from its Great Recession doldrums.

However, at Berkshire’s 2017 Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, Buffett was less than enthusiastic about USG.

Buffett commented in answer to a shareholder’s question that buying into USG wasn’t one of his “brilliant ideas,” stating:

“On USG we owned a very significant percentage like 30%. USG overall has been disappointing because the gypsum business has been disappointing. I think they went bankrupt twice because they had too much debt. It has not been a brilliant investment. If gypsum went up to what it was some years on the past, we would have done a lot better. Gypsum has taken a real dive several times and there has been too much gypsum capacity, and when it comes back the management have been not only of use but have gotten more optimistic than they should have. It’s a business where the supply has been significantly greater than the demand in a lot of years. You’ve seen housing starts since 2008-9 not come back anywhere near where people anticipated, so gypsum prices have not moved up dramatically. So just put that one down as not one of our brilliant ideas. Not a disaster.”

Perhaps with USG again in play, it just got brilliant again.

© 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: Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue to Power Berkshire’s Growth

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

With the price of acquiring large businesses high, Berkshire Hathaway has been hard-pressed to spend down its $116 billion cash hoard on a major acquisition or two. Its proposed $143 billion Unilever bid, made in conjunction with 3G Capital Partners, fell on deaf ears, and other than an agreement to acquire Pilot and Flying J travel centers, the big fish have remained elusive.

However, Berkshire’s bolt-on acquisitions, which add capability and value to its existing businesses, have continued unabated, and were highlighted by Warren Buffett in his annual letter to shareholders.

In the letter, Buffett noted some of the larger acquisitions.

“Clayton Homes acquired two builders of conventional homes during 2017, a move that more than doubled our presence in a field we entered only three years ago. With these additions – Oakwood Homes in Colorado and Harris Doyle in Birmingham – I expect our 2018 site built volume will exceed $1 billion.

Clayton’s emphasis, nonetheless, remains manufactured homes, both their construction and their financing. In 2017 Clayton sold 19,168 units through its own retail operation and wholesaled another 26,706 units to independent retailers.

All told, Clayton accounted for 49% of the manufactured-home market last year. That industry-leading share – about three times what our nearest competitor did – is a far cry from the 13% Clayton achieved in 2003, the year it joined Berkshire.

Both Clayton Homes and PFJ are based in Knoxville, where the Clayton and Haslam families have long been friends. Kevin Clayton’s comments to the Haslams about the advantages of a Berkshire affiliation, and his admiring comments about the Haslam family to me, helped cement the PFJ deal.

Near the end of 2016, Shaw Industries, our floor coverings business, acquired U.S. Floors (“USF”), a rapidly growing distributor of luxury vinyl tile. USF’s managers, Piet Dossche and Philippe Erramuzpe, came out of the gate fast, delivering a 40% increase in sales in 2017, during which their operation was integrated with Shaw’s. It’s clear that we acquired both great human assets and business assets in making the USF purchase.

Vance Bell, Shaw’s CEO, originated, negotiated and completed this acquisition, which increased Shaw’s sales to $5.7 billion in 2017 and its employment to 22,000. With the purchase of USF, Shaw has substantially strengthened its position as an important and durable source of earnings for Berkshire.

I have told you several times about HomeServices, our growing real estate brokerage operation. Berkshire backed into this business in 2000 when we acquired a majority interest in MidAmerican Energy (now named Berkshire Hathaway Energy). MidAmerican’s activities were then largely in the electric utility field, and I originally paid little attention to HomeServices.

But, year-by-year, the company added brokers and, by the end of 2016, HomeServices was the second-largest brokerage operation in the country – still ranking, though, far behind the leader, Realogy. In 2017, however, HomeServices’ growth exploded. We acquired the industry’s third-largest operator, Long and Foster; number 12, Houlihan Lawrence; and Gloria Nilson.

With those purchases we added 12,300 agents, raising our total to 40,950. HomeServices is now close to leading the country in home sales, having participated (including our three acquisitions pro-forma) in $127 billion of “sides” during 2017. To explain that term, there are two “sides” to every transaction; if we represent both buyer and seller, the dollar value of the transaction is counted twice.

Despite its recent acquisitions, HomeServices is on track to do only about 3% of the country’s home-brokerage business in 2018. That leaves 97% to go. Given sensible prices, we will keep adding brokers in this most fundamental of businesses.

Finally, Precision Castparts, a company built through acquisitions, bought Wilhelm Schulz GmbH, a German maker of corrosion resistant fittings, piping systems and components.”

But Wait, There’s More!

Sometimes Berkshire’s bolt-on acquisitions get little attention. Such was the case in the summer of 2017, when Berkshire acquired Warren, Michigan-based MRO distributor Production Tool Supply, and created a new wholesale division, Berkshire eSupply.

At the time, the company was ranked 34th on Industrial Distribution’s 2017 Big 50 List.

And the Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue in 2018

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

Berkshire’s Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, a financier of manufactured and modular homes, acquired Silverton Mortgage. Silverton Mortgage has 22 locations and is licensed in Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

And, Berkshire’s Marmon Holdings acquired Sonnax Industries, Inc. and formed a newly-created subsidiary called Sonnax Transmission Company. Sonnax is an industry leader in the cutting edge design, manufacture and distribution of the highest quality products to the automotive aftermarket, commercial vehicle industries, and industrial sectors utilizing drivetrain technology.

So, if you think that Berkshire Hathaway is sitting still, think again.

© 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.

“Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut,” Says Buffett

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

With 2017 a quiet year for Berkshire Hathaway’s acquisition activity, save for acquiring a 38.6% partnership interest in travel-center operator Pilot Flying J, Warren Buffett used his 2017 annual letter to shareholders to reassure that Berkshire would continue to make large acquisitions only when the price is right.

Buffett pronounced the Pilot Flying J acquisition as “sensible,” and noted that he would not join other CEOs in paying outlandish prices for companies.

“The less the prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we must conduct our own,” Buffett wrote.

“Why the purchasing frenzy? In part, it’s because the CEO job self-selects for ‘can-do’ types,” Buffett noted. “If Wall Street analysts or board members urge that brand of CEO to consider possible acquisitions, it’s a bit like telling your ripening teenager to be sure to have a normal sex life.

Once a CEO hungers for a deal, he or she will never lack for forecasts that justify the purchase. Subordinates will be cheering, envisioning enlarged domains and the compensation levels that typically increase with corporate size. Investment bankers, smelling huge fees, will be applauding as well. (Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut.) If the historical performance of the target falls short of validating its acquisition, large ‘synergies’ will be forecast. Spreadsheets never disappoint.”

© 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.