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January 21, 2020

Warren Buffett goes for the long haul


Warren Buffett goes for the long haul when it comes to marketable equity securities. As far back as March 14, 1978, he said in his FY1977 letter to stockholders of Berkshire Hathaway: “When prices are appropriate, we are willing to take very large positions in selected companies, not with any intention of taking control and not foreseeing sell-out or merger, but with the expectation that excellent business results by corporations will translate over the long term into correspondingly excellent market value and dividend results for owners, minority as well as majority.”

How does Warren Buffett pick marketable equity securities? In that same letter, he said:

“We select our marketable equity securities in much the same way we would evaluate a business for acquisition in its entirety. We want the business to be (1) one that we can understand, (2) with favorable long-term prospects, (3) operated by honest and competent people, and (4) available at a very attractive price.”

Warren Buffett went on to say: “We ordinarily make no attempt to buy equities for anticipated favorable stock price behavior in the short term. In fact, if their business experience continues to satisfy us, we welcome lower market prices of stocks we own as an opportunity to acquire even more of a good thing at a better price.”

What is Warren Buffett’s rationale?

“Our experience has been that pro-rata portions of truly outstanding businesses sometimes sell in the securities markets at very large discounts from the prices they would command in negotiated transactions involving entire companies. Consequently, bargains in business ownership, which simply are not available directly through corporate acquisition, can be obtained indirectly through stock ownership,” he said in his FY1977 letter.

Recommended reading:

(1) The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Third Edition

(2) Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders, 1965-2013

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