Tax cuts boost Berkshire Hathaway book value in 2017

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He noted that Berkshire didn't go on a buying "frenzy" and acquire a bunch of companies previous year, mostly because there were no desirable options that came at a "sensible" purchase price.

Buffett's newsletters are read with intense interest on Wall Street and beyond. "Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering".

American tycoon Warren Buffett has played down speculation that he is putting in place plans to step down as boss of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, insisting that he has "never felt better".

In his much-anticipated annual letter to shareholders, Buffett explained that the company's net gain of $65.3 billion in 2017 was only partly due to his employees' efforts.

He admitted that the struggle in finding a "sensible purchase price" had "proved a barrier to virtually all deals" past year. "Only $36 billion came from Berkshire's operations".

Besides the statistics, here are two things we learned (or did not learn) from Buffett's letter to shareholders. Still, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company likely only lost less than 1% of its net worth, Buffett noted.

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As for succession, there were no hints given, though Buffett did take time to praise Ajit Jain and Greg Abel - the two thought to be the frontrunners. But the biggest contributor to the $29 billion windfall, by far, was Berkshire's huge unrealized gains on stocks (a net figure of more than $100 billion at yearend) and a tax item that goes with them.

The Oracle of Omaha made a winning 10-year bet with Protégé Partners in December 2007 that the S&P 500 would outperform a basket of fund of hedge funds.

Buffett and Protégé both purchased a face amount of $500,000 in zero-coupon Treasury bonds that cost each of them $318,250 to fund the bet ten-years ago, according to the letter. The proceeds were given to Buffett's charity of choice, Girls Inc of Omaha.

Buffett said it's important for people to invest money regularly regardless of the market's ups and downs, but watch out for investment fees which will eat away at returns. A willingness to look unimaginative for a sustained period - or even to look foolish - is also essential.

Buffett said Berkshire would stick with a 'simple guideline: The less the prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we must conduct our own'.

Turning to investments, Berkshire's Apple holding was up to $28.2B at year-end, second only to Wells Fargo at $29.3B.