Case Studies

Comments on Mistakes and Buffett’s Original Berkshire Purchase

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I was reading through the 2014 (last year’s) Berkshire Hathaway annual report and 10-K looking for a few things, and happened to reread Buffett’s letter from last year. I wrote a post a couple weeks ago concerning buybacks and Outerwall, and how a company that is buying back stock of a dying business is not a good use of capital. I noticed a passage in last year’s letter that is relevant to the topic—Buffett himself was attracted to buybacks on a […]

General Thoughts

Long-term Thinking and Back to Basics

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When markets are tumbling, it’s time to get excited about stocks. This is often talked about, but rarely practiced. J. Paul Getty once said the key to getting rich is simple: “Buy when everyone else is selling and hold when everyone else is buying”. For the value investing community, Buffett’s famous “Be greedy when others are fearful” basically is the same gist. Commonly referenced and preached, but far less often practiced. I am lucky to have a great client base at […]

Warren Buffett

A 31-Year Old Buffett Discusses the Stock Market

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I came across this video that I’ve never seen before. It’s a video of a young 31-year old Warren Buffett giving an interview to a journalist about the stock market decline that occurred in the first half of 1962: Buffett’s comment at the very beginning of the video regarding President Kennedy’s “actions on steel” referred to this press conference on April 16, 1962. Basically, JFK announced that the Department of Justice was opening an investigation into the pricing strategies of […]

Portfolio Management

Unconventional Investments

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I was glancing through the Berkshire letters from the late 1990’s because I recall Buffett briefly mentioning his large silver position he acquired and I was trying to see if Buffett referenced the specific cash cost of production. He didn’t in the letter—only mentioning that Berkshire acquired 111 million ounces. He has mentioned in other interviews that silver was in fact below the cost of production—a supply/demand imbalance that can persist for a while, but not forever. Buffett felt comfortable […]

Investment Quotes

Buffett on Taxes (1965 version)

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“One of my friends—a noted West Coast philosopher—maintains that a majority of life’s errors are caused by forgetting what one is really trying to do.” – Warren Buffett, 1965 BPL Partnership Letter I’ve read a few things lately discussing the benefits of designing a “tax-efficient” investment strategy. I’ve said this before, but I think there is a significant misunderstanding on the tax benefits of a low-turnover portfolio, and there is an even larger misunderstanding on the concept of turnover itself. […]

Portfolio Management

Drivers of ROE in the Context of Portfolio Management

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Someone on the Corner of Berkshire and Fairfax board recently posted this comment referencing Buffett’s well-known piece on inflation from 1977. In the article, Buffett describes the variables that drive a company’s return on equity. There are only five ways that a company can improve returns: Increase turnover Cheaper leverage (reduce interest charges) More leverage (increase the amount of assets relative to a given level of equity) Lower income taxes Wider margins Notice three of the five drivers of ROE have […]

Case Studies

Focus on the Key Variables of an Investment

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Earlier this year I watched Lang Lang play Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor—one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. The concerto is a monster—full of big octaves, virtuosity, excitement and power. It has around 30,000 notes, but the music is tied together with a simple 10 note melody that is repeated throughout the piece. I am currently working on a few different investment ideas that have numerous moving parts, but as I conduct my research, I continue coming back to […]

Case Studies

Risk and Portfolio Management Similarities between Joel Greenblatt and Stanley Druckenmiller

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I have been busy over the past couple of weeks. My wife gave birth to twins about two weeks ago, and now that I am back in the office, I am catching up on some reading. While we were in the hospital for about a week, I did have some time to do some reading, and I have some comments on two annual reports of current holdings of mine—JP Morgan and Markel—which I may turn into brief posts. But briefly, […]

Investment Philosophy

Things You Didn’t Know About Buffett’s Strategy

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Last weekend I spent a couple hours reading through Buffett’s old partnership letters (again). I was looking for something specific that I remembered him talking about, but then as I was flipping through them trying to find this comment, I just decided to read them again. I’ve always found it extremely valuable to read Buffett’s letters. Although I’ve read both the partnership letters and the Berkshire letters multiple times, I feel like I pick up something new each time I […]

Case Studies

Portfolio Turnover–A Vastly Misunderstood Concept

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A while back I wrote a post about how the gap between 52 week high and low prices presents an opportunity for investors in public markets. I mentioned that this simple observation (the huge gap between yearly highs and lows) is all the evidence you need to debunk the theory that markets are efficiently priced all the time. I think the market generally does a good job at valuing companies within a range of reasonableness, but there is absolutely no […]