I am reading the annual letters to shareholder from warren buffet again. Anyone wanting an education on investing should read and re-read these letters. Found several great quotes/ ideas which I will be sharing over a few posts.
“Our advantage, was attitude: we learned from Ben Graham that the key to successful investing was the purchase of shares in good businesses when market prices were at a large discount from underlying business values. We have no idea how long the excesses will last, nor do we know what will change the attitudes of government, lender and buyer that fuel them. We do know that the less the prudence with which others conduct their affairs, the greater the prudence with which we should conduct our own affairs”
On buying businesses
“ I've said many times that when a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact. After many years of buying and supervising a great variety of businesses, Charlie and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them. To the extent we have been successful, it is because we concentrated on identifying one-foot hurdles that we could step over rather than because we acquired any ability to clear seven-footers.”
On Capital allocation
“And, despite the age of the equipment, much of it was functionally similar to new equipment being installed by the industry. Despite this “bargain cost” of fixed assets, capital turnover was relatively low reflecting required high investment levels in receivables and inventory compared to sales. Slow capital turnover, coupled with low profit margins on sales, inevitably produces inadequate returns on capital. Obvious approaches to improved profit margins involve differentiation of product, lowered manufacturing costs through more efficient equipment or better utilization of people, redirection toward fabrics enjoying stronger market trends, etc. Our management was diligent in pursuing such objectives. The problem was that our competitors were just as diligently doing the same thing.
Accounting consequences do not influence our operating or capital-allocation decisions. When acquisition costs are similar, we much prefer to purchase $2 of earnings that is not reportable by us under standard accounting principles than to purchase $1 of earnings that is reportable. This is precisely the choice that often faces us since entire businesses (whose earnings will be fully reportable) frequently sell for double the pro-rata price of small portions (whose earnings will be largely unreportable). In aggregate and over time, we expect the unreported earnings to be fully reflected in our intrinsic business value through capital gains”
On Intelligent Investing
1. that you should look at stocks as part Ownership of a business,
2. that you should look at market fluctuations in terms of his "Mr. Market" example and make them your friend rather than your enemy by essentially profiting from folly rather than participating in it, and finally,
3. the three most important words in investing are "Margin of safety" - which Ben talked about in his last chapter of The Intelligent Investor - always building a 15,000 pound bridge if you're going to be driving 10,000 pound trucks across it.
On Investing strategy
“ Our equity-investing strategy remains little changed from what it was years ago: "We select our marketable equity securities in much the way we would evaluate a business for acquisition in its entirety. We want the business to be one (a) that we can understand; (b) with favorable long-term prospects; (c) operated by honest and competent people; and (d) available at a very attractive price." We have seen cause to make only one change in this creed: Because of both market conditions and our size, we now substitute "an attractive price" for "a very attractive price."
But how, you will ask, does one decide what's "attractive"? In answering this question, most analysts feel they must choose between two approaches customarily thought to be in opposition:
"value" and "growth." Indeed, many investment professionals see any mixing of the two terms as a form of intellectual cross-dressing. We view that as fuzzy thinking (in which, it must be confessed, I myself engaged some years ago). In our opinion, the two approaches are joined at the hip: Growth is always a component in the calculation of value, constituting a variable whose importance can range from negligible to enormous and whose impact can be negative as well as positive.
Whether appropriate or not, the term "value investing" is widely used. Typically, it connotes the purchase of stocks having attributes such as a low ratio of price to book value, a low price-earnings ratio, or a high dividend yield. Unfortunately, such characteristics, even if they appear in combination, are far from determinative as to whether an investor is indeed buying something for what it is worth and is therefore truly operating on the principle of obtaining value in his investments. Correspondingly, opposite characteristics - a high ratio of price to book value, a high price-earnings ratio, and a low dividend yield - are in no way inconsistent with a "value" purchase.
Similarly, business growth, per se, tells us little about value. It's true that growth often has a positive impact on value, sometimes one of spectacular proportions. But such an effect is far from certain. For example, investors have regularly poured money into the domestic airline business to finance profitless (or worse) growth. For these investors, it would have been far better if Orville had failed to get off the ground at Kitty Hawk: The more the industry has grown, the worse the disaster for owners.
Growth benefits investors only when the business in point can invest at incremental returns that are enticing - in other words, only when each dollar used to finance the growth creates over a dollar of long-term market value. In the case of a low-return business requiring incremental funds, growth hurts the investor. “