Best of Warren Buffett 2009

Every annual report of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is special. Not only because it is written straight forward and thus so much different from all the PR-driven reports of other companies but also because it is very easy to read and understand. This might come from the process, how Berkshire Hathaway’s boss and investor legend Warren Buffett writes it: He thinks about writing a letter to a close relative and changes the “dear…” into “To the Shareholders…”

Here comes my choice of statements I consider best in this year’s annual report:

  • “In God we trust; all others pay cash.”
  • In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone “all in”.
  • These once-unthinkable dosages [of liquidity] will almost certainly bring on unwelcome aftereffects […] one likly consequence is an onslaught of inflation.
  • In good years and bad, Charlie [Buffett’s investment partner] and I simply focus on four goals: […] dozens of sources of earnings and cash; […]; acquiring and develping new and varied streams of earnings; […]
  • When investing, pessimism is your friend, euphoria the enemy.
  • During 2008 I did some dumb things in investments. I made at least one major mistake of commission and several lesser ones that also hurt. […] I made some errors.
  • We enjoy such price declines if we have funds available to invrease our positions.
  • “Price is what you pay; value what you get.” Ben Graham
  • Enjoyment and utility shoud be the primary motives for purchase [of home ownership], not profit or refinance possibilities.
  • [On borrowing costs] Today’s extreme conditions may soon end.
  • Local governments are going to face far rougher fiscal problems in the future then they have to date.
  • If merely looking up past financial data would tell you what the future holds, the Forbes 400 [list of the wealthiest people] would consist of librarians. […] Investors sould be skeptical of history-based models.
  • When the financial history of this decade is written, it will surely speak of the Internet bubble of the late 1990s and the housing bubble of the early 2000s. But the U.S. Treasury bond bubble of late 2008 may be regarded as almost equally extraordinary.
  • Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.
  • [Although Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two biggest lending companies in the US have been supervised by OFHEO, the federal regulator], whose more then 100 employees had no job except the oversight of these two institutions, [they failed totally]
  • Fannie and Freddie became the most intensely-regulated companies of which I am aware, as measured by manpower assigned to the task [of controlling the two].
  • Improved “transparency” – a favorite remedy of politicians, commentators and financial regulators for averting future train wreck – won’t cure the problems that derivatives pose.
  • When I read the pages of “disclosure” in 10-Ks of companies that are entangled with these instruments, all I end up knowing is that I don’t know what is going on in their portfolios (and then I reach for some aspirin).
  • The CEO of any large financial organization must be the Chief Risk Offices as well.
  • If you decide to leave during the day’s [=annual meeting] question periods, please do so while Charlie is talking.
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