25 February, 2018
The investment company run by Warren Buffett made $44.9 billion of earnings attributable to shareholders during the year, but warned that changes to the way changes in valuation were booked for its $170 billion of tradable stocks would make comparisons "useless" in future.
Buffett's letter is always well-read in the business world because of his remarkable track record over more than five decades and his talent for explaining complicated subjects in plain language.
Buffett declared in his 2015 annual shareholder letter that he has found the "right person", but he didn't offer any further details.
The letter, which was notably shorter than in years past, meditated on the investing lessons that the Berkshire chairman and chief executive officer thinks people should take away from his charitable bet against Protege Partners.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. was a big victor from the recent tax overhaul.
But he said the prices asked for businesses a year ago "hit an all-time high", and Berkshire will be looking for those available at "a sensible purchase price".
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"We expect Buffett's annual letter to reassure investors that his health remains remarkable and he intends to be around for awhile", said Cathy Seifert, equity analyst at CFRA Research in NY.
Still, Seifert reminded clients that "the demise or incapability of Warren Buffett would be a negative for Berkshire shares". "Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering".
Buffett also said that while Berkshire's insurance holdings would take a $2 billion after-tax hit from losses caused by hurricanes previous year in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, other reinsurance companies did far worse. Earlier this month, stocks suffered their first 10 percent pullback since early 2016.
"Prices for decent, but far from spectacular, businesses hit an all-time high", he said.
President Donald Trump's tax overhaul, which lowered corportate tax rates to 21% from 35%, pumped up the company's profits by $29.1 billion. Berkshire estimates about $3B in losses from those events. The two main contenders right now are Greg Abel, who heads Berkshire's non-insurance operations, and Ajit Jain, head of the company's insurance group.
"Investors should probably look for indications of the direction and scale of the initiative in Buffett's letter", CFRA's Seifert told clients. (AAPL), which is now the company's biggest holding.