Buffett struggles to deploy cash at 'all-time high' prices

Unlike many multinational conglomerates Berkshire Hathaway's annual meet allows guests to bring along their children. In fact the company makes arrangements such as bringing in cartoon characters and shopping stalls

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Buffett also said that while stocks remained a better bet than bonds over the long-term, it remained "crazy" for ordinary investors to use margin, or borrowed cash, to load up on stocks.

"The ample availability of extraordinarily cheap debt in 2017 further fuelled purchase activity [by competitors]".

Berkshire attributed roughly $29.11 billion of its net income to the reduction of the corporate tax rate, to 21% from 35%, that Trump signed into law in December. The stock quickly returned to the level it has traded at since Buffett's company disclosed the Teva investment February 15.

Buffett said last week that the tax law has made his company billions of dollars. He said 'We do not follow the common practice of talking one-on-one with large institutional investors or analysts, treating them instead as we do all other shareholders.

The company's insurance operations reported its first annual underwriting loss after a 14-year streak of gains as hurricanes weighed on results. That's a lot of growth over a long time - more than half a century.

"This table offers the strongest argument I can muster against ever using borrowed money to own stocks".

"My main takeaways are the underlying businesses continue to do extremely well, the cash continues to pile up, an additional $30 billion in the a year ago alone" to a total of $116 billion, said Whitney Tilson, a Berkshire shareholder for more than two decades and a close follower of Buffett, 87, and his longtime business partner and sidekick, Charlie Munger, 94. "Our smiles will broaden when we have redeployed Berkshire's excess funds into more productive assets".

Beside investments, Berkshire owns more than 90 different businesses in a variety of industries, including BNSF railroad, Geico insurance and several electric utilities and manufacturing firms. Billionaire investor, former GE shareholder and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Sometimes the payoffs to us will be modest; occasionally the cash register will ring loudly.

He said: "That ... requirement proved a barrier to virtually all deals we reviewed in 2017, as prices for decent, but far from spectacular, businesses hit an all-time high".

Speaking on CNBC television, Buffett said "we can't afford to make a mistake" in finding the right CEO to help combat spiraling healthcare costs that now account for close to 18 per cent of USA gross domestic product, or $10,000 per person. For the last 53 years, the company has built value by reinvesting its earnings and letting compound interest work its magic.

Still you could have used that argument to bet against Mr Buffett and have gone for hedge funds in 2007 and yet even then he would have won posthumously, as presumably he intended. But being the good grandchildren we are, we humor him because after all, he took the time to write to us, and the least we can do after all these years is act like we care. He points to four short periods where Berkshire shares fell by anywhere from 37% to 59%.

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