-Warren E. Buffett, 1986 Chairman’s Letter to the Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.
*This letter is dated February 27, 1987…there is a very good reason this man is wealthy.
- “Inactivity strikes us as intelligent behavior. Neither we nor most business managers would dream of feverishly trading highly-profitable subsidiaries because a small move in the Federal Reserve’s discount rate was predicted or because some Wall Street pundit had reversed his views on the market. Why, then, should we behave differently with our minority positions in wonderful businesses? The art of investing in public companies successfully is little different from the art of successfully acquiring subsidiaries. In each case you simply want to acquire, at a sensible price, a business with excellent economics and able, honest management. Thereafter, you need only monitor whether these qualities are being preserved.”
- “We continually search for large businesses with understandable, enduring and mouth-watering economics that are run by able and shareholder-oriented managements. This focus doesn’t guarantee results: We both have to buy at a sensible price and get business performance from our companies that validates our assessment. But this investment approach–searching for the superstars–offers us our only chance for real success. Charlie and I are simply not smart enough, considering the large sums we work with, to get great results by adroitly buying and selling portions of far-from-great businesses. Nor do we think many others can achieve long-term investment success by flitting from flower to flower. Indeed, we believe that according the name ‘investors’ to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a romantic.”
- “I should emphasize that we do not measure the progress of our investments by what their market prices do during any given year. Rather, we evaluate their performance by the two methods we apply to the businesses we own. The first test is improvement in earnings, with our making due allowance for industry conditions. The second test, more subjective, is whether their ‘moats’—a metaphor for the superiorities they possess that make life difficult for their competitors—have widened during the year.”
- “Wild swings in market prices far above and below business value do not change the final gains for owners in aggregate; in the end, investor gains must equal business gains. But long periods of substantial undervaluation and/or overvaluation will cause the gains of the business to be inequitably distributed among various owners, with the investment result of any given owner largely depending on how lucky, shrewd, or foolish he happens to be.”
- “…we have no idea—and never have had—whether the market is going to go up, down, or sideways in the near future—or the intermediate future. What we do know, however, is that occasional outbreaks of those two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community. The timing of these epidemics will be unpredictable. And the market aberrations produced by them will be equally unpredictable, both as to duration and degree. Therefore, we never try to anticipate the arrival or departure of either disease. Our goal is more modest: we simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”