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The much anticipated annual letter to shareholders from Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is out and the picture is quite rosy. Berkshire reported a 61% increase in earnings for 2010 and net income swelled to $13 billion. The company is poised to make major acquisitions in 2011. The success of 2010 is due largely to the acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe and a dramatic turnaround at NetJets. The company did not outperform the S&P 500 – Buffett says such expectations year in and year out are unrealistic – for the second consecutive year and just the eighth time in the last 46 years.

QUESTIONS:

  1. In terms of usefulness, how would you classify Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders? If you believe it is useful, what criteria does it satisfy?
  2. Try to imagine what goes on when Mr. Buffett makes investing decisions. What type of thinking is involved? Is it possible that a successful investor, like Mr. Buffett, utilizes more than one style?
  3. Investing always involves a certain degree of risk. In 46 years at the helm of Berkshire Hathway, Mr. Buffett has been able to outperform the S&P 500 in all but eight. Scan the article to see if you can identify some of the strategies he uses to minimize risk.
  4. Consider this issue not directly related to decision making. Mr. Buffett currently serves as chairman of the board, CEO, and chief investment officer at Berkshire. What do you think about this?

SOURCE: S. Ng & E. Holm, “Berkshire’s Buffett Eyes More Major Deals as Earnings Surge,” Wall Street Journal (Retrievable online at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703796504576168160901144564.html)

See also: Associated Press, “Warren Buffett Remains Optimistic About U.S. Economy,” Globe and Mail (Retrievable online at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/warren-buffett-remains-optimistic-about-us-economy/article1922176/)

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