In it, he repeated previous statements that the board of his company,
''Both the board and I believe we now have the right person to succeed me as C.E.O. — a successor ready to assume the job the day after I die or step down,''
But the vice chairman,
In an indication of how seriously
For the most part, however, the letter's tone was relentlessly optimistic. Berkshire's market value increased by
''In effect, the world is Berkshire's oyster — a world offering us a range of opportunities far beyond those realistically open to most companies,'' he wrote, discussing how Berkshire's size gave it the capacity to invest in almost any new business. Last year, Berkshire increased its ownership stake in its four largest investments:
And while Berkshire did not strike any megadeals last year, it continued to grow by making 31 smaller so-called bolt-on acquisitions that will cost a total of
''Charlie and I encourage bolt-ons, if they are sensibly-priced,''
Berkshire acted as a financing partner to 3G Capital in its acquisition of
He also reiterated Berkshire's interest in making a deal worth
''We've found that if you advertise an interest in buying collies, a lot of people will call hoping to sell you their cocker spaniels,'' he wrote. At several points, he assailed investment bankers, accusing them of possessing dubious judgment and expensive tastes.
''An attentive investor, I'm embarrassed to report, would have sold Tesco shares earlier,'' he wrote. ''I made a big mistake with this investment by dawdling. Charlie calls this sort of behavior 'thumb-sucking.' (Considering what my delay cost us, he is being kind.)''
He also brushed aside speculation that Berkshire should spin off some of its businesses. ''We would lose control value, capital-allocation flexibility and, in some cases, important tax advantages,''
After such an extraordinary 50-year run,
''The bad news is that Berkshire's long-term gains — measured by percentages, not by dollars — cannot be dramatic and will not come close to those achieved in the past 50 years,'' he wrote. ''The numbers have become too big. I think Berkshire will outperform the average American company, but our advantage, if any, won't be great.''
They weren't that bad, though. Last year, once again,
This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.
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