Monday, 18 November 2013

Buffett's Investing Wisdom - The Best Holding Period

When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever. -- Warren Buffett

What do Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG), Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) have in common? If you said that all three are in Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio, you’d be correct. If you said all three are up more than 1,000% over the past three decades, you’d also be correct. Finally, if you said that at some point during that 30-year span, each of the stocks lost more than 30% of its value in a relatively short period of time… well, you’d be correct there, too.

Although the attraction of fast riches in the stock market can have a strong pull, real investing wealth is built over decades, not months or even years. And if you’re curious what “real investing wealth” means, consider that a $10,000 investment in Wal-Mart 30 years ago would be worth roughly $600,000 today. But there were at least five periods over that stretch when Wal-Mart’s stock fell more than 20% over the course of a year. An investor with a quick trigger finger and a lack of long-term focus might have been shaken out at any one of those times and missed out on the truly great gains made possible from owning for the whole period.

If we look at the stocks in Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio today, it’d be hard to argue that Coca-Cola is anything but a company worth owning for that “forever” timeframe. Sure, the stock isn’t particularly cheap (see the previous quote if that concerns you), and it’s faced headwinds lately in the form of a lousy European economy and a lackluster soda market in the U.S. But when you think bigger picture in the form of the company’s brand -- it was ranked the No. 1 global brand in 2012 by brand expert Interbrand -- its strong market position in its established markets, and continued growth opportunity in emerging markets, it’s obvious there’s still good reason to own Coke stock for the next year, five years from now, and 20 years from now.

When it comes to finding an outstanding business with outstanding managers, Berkshire Hathaway itself would almost certainly need to make the list of companies worth owning for forever. To be sure, Warren Buffett won’t always be the CEO of the company, but the way he’s built the business has ensured that there are many great managers running its many wholly-owned businesses. And with a highly diversified and high-quality business mix that includes everything from The Pampered Chef and Dairy Queen to GEICO and NetJets, the company has many avenues for growth the casual observer may not appreciate. If that’s not enough, consider that there’s a team of investors -- not only Warren Buffett, but his hand-selected protégés Todd Combs and Ted Weschler -- that is expertly investing in publicly-traded stocks using all of the wisdom just discussed here.

Ref:  Warren Buffett's Greatest Wisdom

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