39.1 F
Fort Worth
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Warren Buffett sticks to business, avoids politics in letter

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Billionaire investor Warren Buffett reiterated his rosy long-term outlook for the U.S. economy and his distaste for high Wall Street fees in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that always draws a big audience.

The letter released Saturday also describes the performance of the more than 90 companies that Berkshire owns. But aside from that, Buffett largely emphasized points he’s made in the past.

Buffett will likely address other topics during a three-hour television appearance Monday on CNBC, but he still may leave some people wanting more.

Here are some highlights of what Berkshire’s 86-year-old chairman and CEO did say, and some of the top things investors wish he had addressed:

___

ROSY OUTLOOK

Buffett reiterated his long-term outlook for a prosperous America, but he mostly steered clear of politics this year.

“I’ll repeat what I’ve both said in the past and expect to say in future years: Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history,” wrote Buffett, who has said he thinks the economy will be OK under President Donald Trump. Buffett is a longtime Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in last year’s campaign.

Without mentioning Trump’s immigration policies, Buffett did note that “a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants” played a significant role in the country’s prosperity.

___

FEE FORTUNES

Buffett used the letter to again explain the advantages of low-cost index funds. He said he estimates that wealthy investors who use high-priced advisers have wasted more than $100 billion over the past decade.

“The bottom line: When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients,” Buffett wrote. “Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds.”

And it can be extremely difficult for investors to determine whether a money manager has the rare ability to outperform the stock market. So Buffett said most investors are better off not trying.

“The problem simply is that the great majority of managers who attempt to over-perform will fail. The probability is also very high that the person soliciting your funds will not be the exception who does well,” Buffett wrote.

__

INVESTING INSIGHT:

Investment manager Cole Smead said he felt that Buffett spent too much of the letter extolling Berkshire’s virtues instead of talking about how he’ll approach investing the company’s $86 billion cash or what went wrong with the failed $143 billion bid for Unilever that Berkshire took part in with 3G Capital.

Smead said Buffett and his investing partner, 93-year-old Charlie Munger, seem concerned about their legacies and how Berkshire is perceived.

“This letter was more about Warren and Charlie’s epitaph even more so than prior letters,” said Smead, who is with Seattle-based Smead Capital Management.

Smead said he wishes Buffett had devoted more of the letter to discussing the current investment environment. Even though Buffett won’t discuss what he might buy, Smead said he could have talked more about what he doesn’t like in the market today.

__

AVOIDING AIRLINES:

Buffett raised eyebrows last fall when he invested more than $9 billion in airline stocks after years of urging investors to stay away from the airline sector.

Berkshire is now one of the biggest shareholders in American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Continental and Southwest, but he has offered little explanation for his change of heart other than to say airlines are better businesses after all the consolidation in the industry.

But back in 2008, Buffett used his letter to label airlines as the worst kind of business because they grow rapidly and require significant investments to grow but earn little.

“Think airlines. Here a durable competitive advantage has proven elusive ever since the days of the Wright Brothers,” Buffett wrote. “Indeed, if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.”

___

___

Read Buffett’s letter at: www.berkshirehathaway.com

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Investors who wanted billionaire Warren Buffett to address the current state of the world in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders will likely be disappointed, but they can still take some comfort in his consistently rosy long-term outlook for the U.S. economy.

Buffett re-emphasized points he’s made in the past, such as his advice to avoid high Wall Street fees by investing in low-cost index funds. And he again praised the country’s market system for its ability to allow Americans to continue building “mind-boggling amounts” of wealth over time.

Unlike last year’s letter, when the longtime Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter took the opportunity to say he thought the country was in much better shape than some presidential candidates made it sound, Buffett mostly steered clear of politics this year.

“I’ll repeat what I’ve both said in the past and expect to say in future years: Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history,” wrote Buffett, who has said he thinks the economy will be OK under President Donald Trump.

Without mentioning Trump’s immigration policies, Buffett did note that “a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants” played a significant role in the country’s prosperity.

Buffett will likely address other topics during a three-hour-long television appearance Monday on CNBC, but he still may leave some people wanting more.

Investment manager Cole Smead said he felt that Buffett spent too much of the letter extolling Berkshire’s virtues instead of talking about how he’ll approach investing the company’s $86 billion cash or what went wrong with the failed $143 billion bid for Unilever that Berkshire took part in with 3G Capital. Smead said the 86-year-old Buffett and his investing partner, 93-year-old Charlie Munger, seem concerned about their legacies and how Berkshire is perceived.

“This letter was more about Warren and Charlie’s epitaph even more so than prior letters,” said Smead, who is with Seattle-based Smead Capital Management.

Buffett used the letter to again explain the advantages of low-cost index funds. He said he estimates that wealthy investors who use high-priced advisers have wasted over $100 billion over the past decade.

“The bottom line: When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients,” Buffett wrote. “Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds.”

To prove his point, Buffett recounted the first nine years of a 10-year bet he made in 2008 that an S&P 500 index fund would outperform a collection of hedge funds that the money managers who own Protege Partners LLC picked. Both sides picked a charity that would get at least $1 million.

Buffett’s chosen index fund has recorded an 85.4 percent gain over than time while the hedge funds delivered an average of 22 percent.

Buffett devoted most of his letter to describing the evolution of Berkshire and the performance of the Omaha, Nebraska-based company last year. His annual letters are always well read because of his successful track record and his knack for explaining complicated subjects in simple terms.

Investor Andy Kilpatrick, who wrote “Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett,” said he wishes Buffett had gone into more detail about how individual Berkshire businesses performed, but overall he thought it was a good letter.

Berkshire has come to rely increasingly on acquiring entire operating businesses instead of the firm’s stock portfolio, which includes major stakes in Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, and Apple, among other companies.

Berkshire already owns more than 90 subsidiaries, including Geico insurance, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, BNSF railroad, clothing, furniture and jewelry companies.

Buffett said he will continue looking for more acquisitions with Berkshire’s roughly $86 billion in cash, but the company’s size means it will be hard to match its previous results.

Buffett said Saturday that Berkshire recorded a 10.7 percent increase in book value and a 23.4 percent gain in stock price in 2016. Over the past 52 years, Berkshire’s book value — which is an estimate of its assets minus liabilities — improved 19 percent and its stock price grew 20.8 percent in compounded annual gains.

___

Related Articles

Our Digital Sponsors

Stay Connected

7,352FansLike
1,942FollowersFollow
11,787FollowersFollow
80SubscribersSubscribe

Latest Articles

Get our email updates

Stay up-to-date with the issues, companies and people that matter most to business in the Fort Worth.