News Column

Warren Buffett's Bad News: Berkshire Hathaway Lagged S&P in 2012

March 3, 2013

Wall Street kingpin Warren Buffett said 2012 was the year in which the big ones got away, referring to his pursuit of profitable acquisitions.

Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's investment firm, announced this year that it had teamed up with a Brazilian firm to buy H.J. Heinz for $23.6 billion. But last year his firm's most notable acquisitions were newspapers, for which he spent a relatively small amount: Only $344 million, The New York Times reported Saturday.

"There is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job," Buffett wrote in his annual letter to stockholders.

He also characterized 2012 as the year in which "I pursued a couple of elephants, but came up empty-handed."

Berkshire Hathaway is now holding $42 billion in cash, $12 billion of which will go to the deal to buy ketchup maker Heinz. But that still leaves a large cash reserve available for other purchases.

In his annual letter, Buffett wrote that, "America's destiny, however, has always been clear: ever-increasing abundance."

Berkshire Hathaway's value rose 14.4 percent in 2012, but that meant it lagged behind the Standard & Poor's 500 index, the Times said.

It was the ninth time in 48 years that Berkshire Hathaway did not keep up with the rising value of the broader stock market.

But Buffett's letter, which is a cherished souvenir for investors around the world, still conveyed the investor's congenial optimism and his rocking chair mannerisms.

His folksy style long ago earned Buffett the nickname of the Sage of Omaha, referring to his hometown in Nebraska.

Rather than pursue the wrong deal, "More than 50 years ago, Charlie told me that it was far better to buy a wonderful business at a fair price than to buy a fair business at a wonderful price," he wrote, referring referring to his longtime partner at Berkshire, Charlie Munger.

For 2013, Buffett, who is 82, wrote, "Charlie and I have again donned our safari outfits and resumed our search for elephants."





Source: Copyright United Press International 2013


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