Thursday, May 08, 2008

Justin Fuller: Woodstock for Capitalists 2008 Blog

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

3:05 p.m. An Insightful Day
I hope that you enjoyed today's discussion as much as I did, and I encourage you to contact me with any additional questions or insights you may have.

3:00 p.m. Hopes for Berkshire
A shareholder asked Mr. Buffett what he hopes for Berkshire is that the culture stays strong and that it remains a home for businesses that were built by families over time. He also hopes that the company will continue on as it is now by being a home for great businesses. I'll note that culture is one of the most valuable parts of any business, but the most difficult to quantify. In Berkshire's case, Mr. Buffett views sharpening the Berkshire culture as his chief objective, and in my view this culture will give his successor(s) an advantage in continuing to build the company for decades to come.

2:55 p.m. Pharma Stocks
Mr. Buffett said that he thinks pharma stocks as a group will do well, but given that it is very difficult to value what is in the pipelines of these companies, he thinks investors would be best served by buying a basket of pharma stocks. I'll note that Berkshire's equity portfolio has positions in J&J, Sanofi-Aventis, as well as GlaxoSmithKline.

2:50 p.m. Envy vs. Gluttony
Mr. Buffett said that envy is the worst of the sins because if you become envious you feel worse, while the other person is the same--or even feels better. He said, tongue-in-cheek, that gluttony on the other hand has upside.

2:35 p.m. Dividends for Berkshire?
A shareholder asked Mr. Buffett about the potential for dividends at Berkshire, and he said that as long as he can continue to create more than $1 of value with every $1 of retained earnings, Berkshire will not pay dividends. Given that Mr. Buffet has been putting a lot of capital to work lately with the Marmon Group, Mars/Wrigley, additional equity investments, and, more recently, new fixed-income investments, I think there are heaps of potential for Berkshire to still create wealth by retaining all of its earnings.

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