Sunday, 26 February 2012

Warren Buffett on Economic Goodwill (Intangible asset)


This is what Warren Buffett calls economic good will which he explained in 1983 like this:
‘[B]usinesses logically are worth far more than net tangible assets when they can be expected to produce earnings on such assets considerably in excess of market rates of return.’

Using by analogy, one of the favorite examples of Warren Buffett, take two separate companies. Company A has a net worth of $100,000, $40,000 of which is net tangible assets and $60,000 of which is intangible (brand name, goodwill, patents etc). Company B has the same net worth but $90,000 its assets are tangible. Each company earns $10,000 a year.
  • So Company A is earning $10,000 from tangible assets of $40,000 and Company B is earning $10,000 from tangible assets of $90,000.
If both companies wanted to double earnings, they might have to double their investment in tangible assets. 
  • For Company A to do this, it would have to spend $40,000 to add $10,000 of earnings. 
  • For Company B to do this, it would have to spend another $90,000 to add $10,000 to earnings. 
All other things being equal, Company A would have better future prospects of increase in real earnings than Company B.


For these reasons, Warren Buffett has said that, in calculating the real profitability of a company, there should be no amortisation of economic goodwill. Does the Gillette brand name actually decrease in value each year? Of course not.

The thoughts of both Graham and Warren Buffett are worth consideration. Book value is another ingredient in the investment equation.

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