Grantham: Investing in a Low-Growth World
"All corporate growth has to funnel through return on equity. The problem with growth companies and growth countries is that they so often outrun the capital with which to grow and must raise more capital. Investors grow rich not on earnings growth, but on growth in earnings per share. There is almost no evidence that faster-growing countries have higher margins. In fact, it is slightly the reverse." - Jeremy Grantham
"The fact that growth companies historically have underperformed the market – probably because too much was expected of them and because they were more appealing to clients – was not accepted for decades, but by about the mid-1990s the historical data in favor of 'value' stocks began to overwhelm the earlier logically appealing idea that growth should win out. It was clear that 'value' or low growth stocks had won for the prior 50 years at least. This was unfortunate because the market's faulty intuition had made it very easy for value managers or contrarians to outperform. Ah, the good old days! But now the same faulty intuition applies to fast-growing countries. How appealing an assumption it is that they should beat the slow pokes. But it just ain't so." - Jeremy Grantham
Buffett on Berkshire's "Powerhouse Five" & "Big Four"
"At Berkshire we much prefer owning a non-controlling but substantial portion of a wonderful business to owning 100% of a so-so business. Our flexibility in capital allocation gives us a significant advantage over companies that limit themselves only to acquisitions they can operate." - Warren Buffett
Buffett on Berkshire's Float
"If our premiums exceed the total of our expenses and eventual losses, we register an underwriting profit that adds to the investment income our float produces. When such a profit is earned, we enjoy the use of free money – and, better yet, get paid for holding it. That's like your taking out a loan and having the bank pay you interest." - Warren Buffett
"...we have now operated at an underwriting profit for ten consecutive years, our pre-tax gain for the period having totaled $18.6 billion. Looking ahead, I believe we will continue to underwrite profitably in most years. If we do, our float will be better than free money." - Warren Buffett
"So how does our attractive float affect the calculations of intrinsic value? When Berkshire's book value is calculated, the full amount of our float is deducted as a liability, just as if we had to pay it out tomorrow and were unable to replenish it. But that's an incorrect way to look at float..." - Warren Buffett
"The value of our float is one reason – a huge reason – why we believe Berkshire's intrinsic business value substantially exceeds its book value." - Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett on "The Key to Investing"
"American business will do fine over time. And stocks will do well just as certainly, since their fate is tied to business performance. Periodic setbacks will occur, yes, but investors and managers are in a game that is heavily stacked in their favor. (The Dow Jones Industrials advanced from 66 to 11,497 in the 20th Century, a staggering 17,320% increase that materialized despite four costly wars, a Great Depression and many recessions. And don't forget that shareholders received substantial dividends throughout the century as well.)
Since the basic game is so favorable, Charlie and I believe it's a terrible mistake to try to dance in and out of it based upon the turn of tarot cards, the predictions of 'experts,' or the ebb and flow of business activity. The risks of being out of the game are huge compared to the risks of being in it." - Warren Buffett
Not Picking Stocks By The Numbers
An exchange between Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger as summarized by the Wall Street Journal's live blog:
"We are looking at businesses exactly like we are looking at them if somebody came in and asked us to buy the whole business," Buffett said. He said they then want to know how it will do in ten years.
Munger was even more forceful: "We don't know how to buy stocks by metrics ... We know that Burlington Northern will have a competitive advantage in years ... we don't know what the heck Apple will have. ... You really have to understand the company and its competitive positions. ... That's not disclosed by the math.
Buffett: "I don't know how I would manage money if I had to do it just on the numbers."
Munger, interupting, "You'd do it badly."
Buffett on Bonds and Productive Assets
"I bought a piece of real estate in New York in 1992, I have not had a quote on it since. I look to the performance of the assets. Maybe...my piece of real estate have had pull backs, but I don't even know about 'em. People pay way too— way too much attention to the short term. If you're getting your money's worth in a stock, buy it and forget it." - Warren Buffett
"...interest rates have a powerful effect on...all assets. Real estate, farms, oil, everything else...they're the cost of carrying other assets. They're the alternative. They're the yardstick." - Warren Buffett
"...the fact that there are troubles in Europe, and there are plenty of troubles, and they're not going go away fast, does not mean you don't buy stocks. We bought stocks when the United States was in trouble, in 2008 and— and it was in huge trouble and we spent 15 1/2 billion in three weeks in— between September 15th and October 10th. It wasn't because the news was good, it was because the prices were good." - Warren Buffett
"In terms of stocks, you know, stocks are reasonably priced. They were very cheap a few years ago. They're reasonably priced now. But stocks grow in value over time because they retain earnings..." - Warren Buffett
(Stocks prices were, of course, generally much lower when Buffett said this compared to now.)
"There could be conditions under which we...would own bonds. But— they're conditions far different than what exist now." - Warren Buffett
"I would have productive assets. I would favor those enormously over fixed dollars investments now, and I think it's silly — to have some ratio like 30 or 40 or 50% in bonds. They're terrible investments now." - Warren Buffett
"News is better now. Stocks are higher. They're still not— they're not ridiculously high at all, and bonds are priced artificially. You've got some guy buying $85 billion a month. (LAUGH) And— that will change at some point. And when it changes, people could lose a lot of money if they're in long-term bonds." - Warren Buffett
"...I bought a farm in 1985, I haven't had— had a quote on it since. But I know what it's produced every year. And I know it's worth more money now. You know, it— if I'd gotten a quote on it every day and somebody's said, "You know, maybe you oughta sell because there's, you know, there's clouds in the West," or something. (LAUGH) It's — it's crazy." - Warren Buffett
Charlie Munger: What Buying a House and Rabbit Hunting Have in Common
"Partly there was a time you felt foolish you didn't buy a house because you weren't making all the money everybody else was making, so it was a typical crazy boom. Now people have learned house prices can go down as well as up." - Charlie Munger
"It's like a fella who goes rabbit hunting and thoroughly enjoys himself. And then the rabbits haul out guns and start firing back. It would dim your enthusiasm for rabbit hunting, and that's what happened in the housing market." - Charlie Munger
More quotes in a follow up,
Quotes of 2012