In his annual letter, Warren Buffett tells investors to ignore Wall Street pundits

FILE- In this May 3, 2019 file photo, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, left, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, briefly chat with reporters before Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting.  Buffett credited his longtime partner — the late Charlie Munger — with being the architect of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate he’s received the credit for leading and warned shareholders in his annual letter not to listen to Wall Street pundits or financial advisors who urge them to trade often.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)
FILE- In this May 3, 2019 file photo, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, left, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, briefly chat with reporters before Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting. Buffett credited his longtime partner — the late Charlie Munger — with being the architect of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate he’s received the credit for leading and warned shareholders in his annual letter not to listen to Wall Street pundits or financial advisors who urge them to trade often. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett credited his longtime partner — the late Charlie Munger — with being the architect of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate he's received the credit for leading and warned shareholders in his annual letter Saturday not to listen to Wall Street pundits or financial advisors who urge them to trade often.

Buffett said he always writes his letter with smart, long-term investors like his sister Bertie in mind and tries to tell them what he thinks they'd like to know about Berkshire.

“She is sensible – very sensible – instinctively knowing that pundits should always be ignored,” Buffett wrote about Bertie. “After all, if she could reliably predict tomorrow’s winners, would she freely share her valuable insights and thereby increase competitive buying? That would be like finding gold and then handing a map to the neighbors showing its location.”

Buffett told investors that Berkshire is a safe place to park their cash as long as they don't expect the “eye-popping performance” of its past because there are no attractively priced acquisition targets out there big enough to make a meaningful difference in the Omaha, Nebraska-based company's results. But he said Berkshire will be ready to swoop in with its $167.6 billion whenever the casino-like stock market seizes up.

Munger, Buffett’s longtime investing partner, died in November at age 99 — taking away one of the key sounding boards Buffett relied on over the decades as Berkshire acquired companies like See’s Candy, Geico insurance, BNSF railroad and others to reshape the failing textile mill they took over in the 1960s into the massive eclectic conglomerate Berkshire is today.

Buffett already devoted part of last year’s annual letter to Berkshire shareholders to a tribute to Munger, but this year’s version led off with even more praise for the revered curmudgeon’s contributions to Berkshire over the years. Buffett said “Charlie was the 'architect' of the present Berkshire” who realized early on that it was better to buy wonderful businesses at fair prices.

“Charlie never sought to take credit for his role as creator but instead let me take the bows and receive the accolades,” Buffett wrote. “In a way his relationship with me was part older brother, part loving father. Even when he knew he was right, he gave me the reins, and when I blundered he never – never – reminded me of my mistake.”

Buffett also recounted how Berkshire's insurance businesses like Geico thrived last year, but its massive utilities and BNSF railroad disappointed. He also told shareholders how he never plans to sell its stakes in nearly 30% of Occidental Petroleum and 9% of five large Japanese trading houses, but he reiterated that he has no plans to buy the oil producer outright.

Berkshire's eclectic mix of businesses, combined with the strong performance of its investments, delivered a profit of $37.57 billion, or $26,043 per Class A share, in the fourth quarter. That's more than double the $18.08 billion profit, or $12,355 per Class A share, that Berkshire reported a year earlier.

But Buffett cautioned that investors should largely ignore those bottom line figures because they are swayed so much by the paper value of its investments. Instead, he has long urged investors to pay attention to Berkshire's operating earnings that exclude investments.

By that measure, Berkshire reported a 28% jump in operating earnings to $8.48 billion, or $5,878.21 per Class A share. That's up from $6.63 billion, or $4,527.06 per Class A share.

The three analysts surveyed by FactSet Research predicted that Berkshire would report quarterly operating earnings of $5,717,17 per Class A share.

Berkshire’s stock has set a series of new records in recent weeks, most recently peaking at $632,820 per Class A share Friday morning as investors eagerly anticipated Buffett’s letter. Buffett is revered for his remarkably successful track record and the sage advice he has offered over the decades. His annual letter is always one of the best-read reports in the business world.

Berkshire also spent $2.2 billion repurchasing its own shares in the fourth quarter, bringing the total to $9.2 billion for the full year.


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