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Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 06:06 AM   #1
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Berkshire Hathaway

Does anyone have any feedback on the a and b funds. I've done some research but can't really find what I'm looking for. I have a great amount of respect for Mr. Buffett and he has done fairly well for himself I would say. I am 33 yoa and have time to ride out some downturns. It looks like he has a good grasp on the future of the dollar. Is there any investors out there that have tried these funds out or own these funds? What are your feelings? Which one is a better investment a or b? I just purchased his new book but haven't had a chance to read it yet.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 06:55 AM   #2
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

Do the math.* You're 33 and he's in his mid 80's.* The shares sell for a premium over their asset value because of the financial genius in charge.* BRK is looking for a replacement so the premium is likely to go away very quickly when the change is announced.* That's hardly a positive outlook for a major investment.

BRK has also not experienced the dynamic growth recently that it did it it's early days.* It hasn't done poorly but it is essentially a conglomerate with an emphasis on insurance.* Consider evaluating it against other insurance and financial companies.

Here's another "do the math."* The A shares sell for 90,000.* The B shares sell for 3,000.* That might influence your decision.* You have to buy at least one share.* The stock prices track each other closely.* I think A shares vote and B shares don't.

Finally, the guy running the company is in his mid 80's.* He may have been a ball of fire in his 30's through 60's but I can't believe he has much left.* I've watched my mother/father and MIL/FIL age.* Believe me, in the mid to late 80's it's a challenge to balance a checkbook and remember where your glasses are.*

Lately, Ol Warren has been dumping on everything and making big currency bets that have been wrong.* He may have been reading his own press and believes he's infallible.* He's become a "bear" which is also normal for financial powerhouses that age.*

I avoid large positions in any single stock as a matter of policy.* A large position in BRK-A or B has additional risks.




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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 07:16 AM   #3
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soon2B
Do the math. You're 33 and he's in his mid 80's. The shares sell for a premium over their asset value because of the financial genius in charge. BRK is looking for a replacement so the premium is likely to go away very quickly when the change is announced. That's hardly a positive outlook for a major investment.

BRK has also not experienced the dynamic growth recently that it did it it's early days. It hasn't done poorly but it is essentially a conglomerate with an emphasis on insurance. Consider evaluating it against other insurance and financial companies.

Here's another "do the math." The A shares sell for 90,000. The B shares sell for 3,000. That might influence your decision. You have to buy at least one share. The stock prices track each other closely. I think A shares vote and B shares don't.

Finally, the guy running the company is in his mid 80's. He may have been a ball of fire in his 30's through 60's but I can't believe he has much left. I've watched my mother/father and MIL/FIL age. Believe me, in the mid to late 80's it's a challenge to balance a checkbook and remember where your glasses are.

Lately, Ol Warren has been dumping on everything and making big currency bets that have been wrong. He may have been reading his own press and believes he's infallible. He's become a "bear" which is also normal for financial powerhouses that age.

I avoid large positions in any single stock as a matter of policy. A large position in BRK-A or B has additional risks.
soon - he's actually 75. Of course, with those juicy steaks he eats everynight his arteries are in their mid 80s
I think he's still got what it takes though and from what I've read he has a couple all-stars steeped in his and Graham's philosophy running his companies that are in line to succeed.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 08:02 AM   #4
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

I agree he's 75 but he looks ten years older. I still wouldn't put money in BRK-A or B. The stock and company will be dramatically different post-Buffet.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 08:08 AM   #5
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

I have sold most of my baby Berks and will soon get rid off the rest, I need income and although itis nice to see capital appreciation, they do not pay out anything.

I bought a bunch when Warren had the Cancer Scare, he will die, the mystique will be off, atleast a 30% correction.

Better to buy DIA/NYSE.

I do not undestand why he continues to sit on a bunch of cash, he should donate more, a young person on a Buffet scholarship might discover a cure for a cancer.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 10:00 AM   #6
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

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Originally Posted by gtmeouttahere
Does anyone have any feedback on the a and b funds.* I've done some research but can't really find what I'm looking for.
Can you tell us what you're looking for?

BRK/B is 30% of our retirement portfolio and half our kid's college fund. Although it's "underperformed the S&P500" I don't know what the heck it has in common-- except that Buffett discusses its performance relative to that index. If BRK was a mutual fund it'd be the 10th largest with one of the longest-running managers. This particular active manager has an ER that's quite a bit lower than the pack and we like his value approach. We started buying in 2001 and our cost basis is $2213/share. We're selling off another mutual fund for our living expenses now (Tweedy, Browne) so we won't get around to selling off any BRK this decade, and maybe not the next one either.

You can read the rules on the A/B shares here. We chose the "B" shares because $90K is quite a bit of a chunk of change for us to sell at one whack. You'll see a bit more volatility in the "B" shares as they're arbed but we don't worry about that. I'll point out that volatility as a measure of technical analysis for this stock is worthless due to its thin trading volume, and if you're planning to trade the stock on TA then at some point your analysis will get hammered by that lack of volume.

As Dan has pointed out, Buffett will be 76 on 30 August. Charlie Munger is in his 80s (82? 83?). Buffett says that investing is one of the few activities where your skills improve with age, and he claims that he's in excellent health, but he's also improved his disclosure of the succession plan in the latest annual report. It's worth noting that Berkshire has had managers retire but none have quit, and several have been with him for decades. The succession controversy among the top four seems irrelevant to me when you consider their areas of expertise, some of which have been outperforming Buffett (Lou Simpson).

I'm not sure where Soon is getting his asset values but you can play with some numbers here. Although the results vary from 55%-106% of the share price, I'd say that shares are selling at a 20% discount to the company's breakup value. A controlling number of shares will be held by Buffett's charitable trust when he's done with them, so I don't know that "breakup" will ever occur.

I'm pretty sure that when Buffett wakes up demented or dead that there will be some of the most horrific volatility ever seen. I wouldn't be surprised by a drop of up to 50%, and I sure hope I'm near a computer or a phone when it happens so that I can buy before everyone else jumps onboard. Over the decade after Buffett's death we'll learn just how good he's been training his successors, and I think we'll find out that the new kids (in their 50s & 60s) will do just fine. But there are other investors with similar approaches who are much younger-- take a look at the Danaher brothers (DHR) and Eddie Lampert (Sears).

Buffett bet big on the dollar's decline in 2004 and got hammered 10-15% in 2005. I don't know where he is for 2006 (he usually discloses positions long after he's closed them out) but he's probably still short. He tends to take a very long-term view and doesn't worry about a year or two of underperformance, but he also acknowledges that he uses traditional methods of valuation instead of "newfangled" ones, so his views on the dollar and the trade imbalance haven't come to pass as quickly or as severely as he's warned about them. He made an obscene pile on junk bonds in 2002-2003 when many were afraid to touch them, so I think his dollar speculation will be a reprise of junk bonds.

Another current fuss about Berkshire is its high cash position, $40B or so, and Buffett's seeming inability to remain fully invested. In the last 10 years he's transformed Berkshire from a stock-holding company to a conglomerate of corporations, and he seems to be continuing that trend. Latest purchases have been mainly energy companies but he doesn't hestitate to snap up anything that's discounted. (I believe one of the posters on this board has a kid who was part of the financial analysis team that persuaded Buffett to buy Clayton Homes, and as a result his class was awarded "B" shares.) I believe that if the world goes to hell again then Buffett will be buying, but otherwise you'll always hear complaints about the company's high cash position.

Other research resources include here (ignore the ads) and Sandman's Place. M* also runs a discussion board on this topic but it's not very active.

Which "new book" are you referring to? Alice Schroeder's impending biography is rumored to have pulled down an advance of something like $7M but the publication date for that is at least a year off. That's the latest written with his apparent cooperation, and other than his annual reports I'm not aware of anything else recently written by Buffett.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 11:17 AM   #7
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

I think the view of BRK as a fund to be evaluated on the basis of NAV is fundamentally wrong. If BRK were set up as a mutual fund of some sort, that would be fine, but its not. BRK is a mammoth reinsurer. Do not lose sight of that. Evaluate the company as a reinsurer (good luck!).
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 12:00 PM   #8
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

This is one area where Nords and I will diverge, i'm afraid.

It doesnt matter who is ready to step up when Warren goes down, the stock is going to get hammered for a third to half of its value. I've seen BRK annual meetings and they're like college football games. Warren is the star quarterback. It doesnt matter if the guy behind him can throw the ball 500 yards.

But after the carnage, I might buy some A shares just for the halibut. I've owned both A and B shares in the past and made good money on them.

I wouldnt own it right now though. Or until Warren goes to the great capital allocation cloud in the sky.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 01:57 PM   #9
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

I don't think the stock will get hammered all that much....the underlying assets whether they're whole companies or stock positions or 40B of Cash! will underpin. Some of the fear may already be built in to the price, who knows...is the stock price all that much higher than "book" value, anyone?...does Warren think the stock is a good investment right now? I know some time back he told people not to buy it...when the B class came out?
I think the new Warren(s) will continue to buy undervalued assets and hold and hold and hold...

I'm wondering who the young versions of Warren are....Eddie Lampert that Nords mentioned - he surprised me with what he has done with Sears & Kmart, not familiar with Danaher Bros....

Nords - I think he came out a month or so ago and said the dollar was going to lose value....and why not?... so he's sticking with his bet I think...
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-25-2006, 02:02 PM   #10
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

There you go again, tying rational arguments to stock prices
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-26-2006, 12:40 AM   #11
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

Thanks for the multitude of information!!! Nord, you sure can write. Have you ever thought of becoming an author? Seriously, you are a wealth of information on this topic. Thanks also for the links. I added all of these thoughts together and now am thoroughly & profoundly confused...Not really, but you can tell just by the response that people are truly split on this and are EMOTIONALLY split. This is inclining me to believe there will be extreme volitility when Mr. Buffet passes and a lot of "I told you so's".

Like someone in this post said, "it doesn't matter how far his succesor passes the ball, you've just lost the starting QB and team leader". I think I'll wait till he passes on, and be right next to my computer to jump on this. I for one believe his succesors will be just as good, if not better, than Buffett. It will just take a little while to get consumer confidence back. "there will be a lot of money to be made in that stagnant period". IMO.

By the way, the book I was referring to is "The Essential Buffett" and have no idea how old that book is, but it's "new" to me.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-26-2006, 12:48 AM   #12
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanTien
I know some time back he told people not to buy it...when the B class came out?
I think the new Warren(s) will continue to buy undervalued assets and hold and hold and hold...
From the 1996 letter, explaining the logic behind the "B" shares: *"In last year's letter, with Berkshire shares selling at $36,000, I told you: *(1) Berkshire's gain in market value in recent years had outstripped its gain in intrinsic value, even though the latter gain had been highly satisfactory; (2) that kind of overperformance could not continue indefinitely; (3) Charlie and I did not at that moment consider Berkshire to be undervalued."

So Berkshire was either fully valued or overvalued. *

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanTien
I'm wondering who the young versions of Warren are....Eddie Lampert that Nords mentioned - he surprised me with what he has done with Sears & Kmart, not familiar with Danaher Bros....
Yeah, Lampert surprised the @#$% out of me while I was shorting KMart. *I think he made a bad deal and I think Sears is a bad deal too but I'm not going against Lampert anymore.

Here's one Business Week article on Danaher; they also did a profile a few years back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanTien
Nords - I think he came out a month or so ago and said the dollar was going to lose value....and why not?... so he's sticking with his bet I think...
Everyone's focused on the money he lost in 2005 shorting the $$, not the money that was made in 2004 & 2003.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gtmeouttahere
Thanks for the multitude of information!!! Nord, you sure can write. Have you ever thought of becoming an author?
Thanks, I have a lot on my mind and I like to write. We've been discussing doing something about that. Spouse is very grateful that I post here instead of having me focus all my attention on her...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gtmeouttahere
By the way, the book I was referring to is "The Essential Buffett" and have no idea how old that book is, but it's "new" to me.
Another good (library) book is Roger Lowenstein's "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist".
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-26-2006, 01:16 AM   #13
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

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Thanks, I have a lot on my mind and I like to write.* We've been discussing doing something about that.* Spouse is very grateful that I post here instead of having me focus all my attention on her...

I just found this site recently and my spouse is already greatful!!!
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-29-2006, 12:04 AM   #14
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

Here's a new Jim Jubak article...
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-29-2006, 12:10 PM   #15
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

Yeah, he was a moron in the late 90's for not buying tech stocks.

I was an idiot for 7 years straight for selling my companies rocket tech stock and diversifying.

We both became smart again at about the same time.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-29-2006, 01:53 PM   #16
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

I own a lot of BRKB.* My take is that this company is different from others in that Buffet really honestly tries to make the stock price match the intrinsic value of the company.* *If he's doing a good job of that (and I think he generally is), there shouldn't be much premium in the stock price for "Buffet Mystique".

Of course that's not to say there won't be volatility when Buffet passes on... there certainly will be a big shakeup as investors get panicky.* But eventually people will realize that the companies that make up Berkshire will continue running themselves as they always have without Buffet.* So the intrinsic value should not decline much, and eventually the stock price will correct back towards the intrinsic value.

At some point Berkshire will no longer be able to continue buying other companies.* Either because Buffet passes on and there's nobody who can do it well enough, or just because it gets so big that there are no companies EDIT: small big enough to buy.* When that happens they can just start paying the cashflow out in dividends and BRKB will become more of a conservative investment.

And of course the stock market knows Buffet's age just as well as you and I do.* If the market perceives that his age is a problem, that information is already reflected in the stock price.




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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-29-2006, 02:15 PM   #17
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

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At some point Berkshire will no longer be able to continue buying other companies.* Either because Buffet passes on and there's nobody who can do it well enough, or just because it gets so big that there are no companies small enough to buy.* When that happens they can just start paying the cashflow out in dividends and BRKB will become more of a conservative investment.
Hmmm, I see BRK with 12/05 assets of $155 billion. There are plenty of financial companies with much bigger balance sheets. Gonna be a long time before BRK is too big to buy companies. Now whether they actually buy stuff big enough to matter, well...
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-29-2006, 03:05 PM   #18
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

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I own a lot of BRKB.* My take is that this company is different from others in that Buffet really honestly tries to make the stock price match the intrinsic value of the company.* *If he's doing a good job of that (and I think he generally is), there shouldn't be much premium in the stock price for "Buffet Mystique".
I don't think it'll ever trade at a premium but it sure stays discounted to IV. And I think a big chunk of that discount is caused by the "Buffett Mystique" because everyone's worrying about the succession. Frankly the best thing that could happen to Berkshire Hathaway right now would be for Dick Cheney to invite Warren to go hunting with him.

I think Buffett tries to talk down the stock at every opportunity so that he can offer a better deal to the owners of the companies he buys. He gives them cash, they buy Berkshire Hathaway shares, the stock appreciates over the years, everybody's happy. If the stock was really selling at a Graham-sized discount then he'd be using that $40B cash stash to retire the outstanding shares.

Quote:
Originally Posted by free4now
... or just because it gets so big that there are no companies small enough to buy.
Hunh? I would think that bigger companies could go on buying sprees better than smaller companies, and I'd think that smaller companies would be easiest of all to buy. I agree that it's tough for big companies (mutual funds) to buy small-cap stocks, but that's why Berkshire has spent the last decade morphing from a stock-holder to a conglomerate.

I've noticed that Buffett's biggest buying sprees start right after changes to legislation, like buying the latest utility after the regulations loosened up. I can see that he'll have trouble buying more utilities after he buys up half the grid, but there's plenty more utilities in the rest of the world.

Now, if Buffett bumps up against Wal-Mart, that'd be a different story...
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-29-2006, 03:22 PM   #19
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

War-mart or Bal-mart?

I'm not sure the "efficient market theory" applies to a stock that has so many emotion based investors. With that statement, i'm not sure if what gets "priced in" is higher, lower or the same as a plain old megacorps "efficient price".

Maybe investors love Warren, but fear his eventual demise, and it evens out.
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway
Old 03-29-2006, 04:23 PM   #20
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Re: Berkshire Hathaway

Nords you caught my mistake... I meant

just because it gets so big that there are no companies big enough to buy

You make a good point that the "Buffet Mystique" cuts both ways... having Buffet in charge now brings the stock price up, and the possibility of having him gone later brings it down. Maybe the two cancel each other out.
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