Mike Kueber's Blog

February 28, 2012

Buffett’s 2011 letter to his shareholders

Filed under: Investing — Mike Kueber @ 3:34 am
Tags: ,

Although the timing of my retirement (March 2009) was excellent for purposes of investing in the stock market (the market has doubled since then), my timing for investing in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (April 2009) couldn’t have been worse.

In Warren Buffett’s annual letter to his shareholders, he always begins by comparing his company’s performance to the S&P 500.  In the past 48 years, Berkshire Hathaway has averaged a 19.8% gain as compared to 9.2% with the S&P, and Berkshire Hathaway has outperformed the S&P in 40 of those 48 years.  Unfortunately for me, two of those bad-performing years were 2009 and 2010.  According to Buffett’s most recent shareholder letter, Berkshire in 2011 finally returned to supremacy over the S&P, but just barely – 4.6% to 2.1%.  That’s better than nothing.

The big story from the 2011 letter is that Buffett’s successor has been selected, although the successor’s identity was not disclosed:

  • Your Board is equally enthusiastic about my successor as CEO, an individual to whom they have had a great deal of exposure and whose managerial and human qualities they admire. (We have two superb back-up candidates as well.) When a transfer of responsibility is required, it will be seamless, and Berkshire’s prospects will remain bright. More than 98% of my net worth is in Berkshire stock, all of which will go to various philanthropies. Being so heavily concentrated in one stock defies conventional wisdom. But I’m fine with this arrangement, knowing both the quality and diversity of the businesses we own and the caliber of the people who manage them. With these assets, my successor will enjoy a running start. Do not, however, infer from this discussion that Charlie and I are going anywhere; we continue to be in excellent health, and we love what we do.

In the letter, Buffett also suggested that (a) the American economy will enjoy a vigorous rebound as soon as the excess supply of houses is inevitably exhausted, and (b) Berkshire will continue to buy back its shares because they are underpriced. 

I think I will hold onto my shares.

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