Friday, 10 October 2014
Analysing the substance and character of a business is the holy grail of investing. Guessing a price that someone else is willing to pay, is not.
By 1969, the stock market had reached new highs, and the Buffett Partnership continued to beat its returns. As the market continued to climb even higher, Buffett announced that he would close his partnerships. He told the partners that the speculation-driven stock market didn't make sense; he wanted no part of the folly.
Buffett sold everything in the portfolio except for shares in Diversified Retailing, Blue Chip Stamps, and Berkshire Hathaway, which now included insurance and banking businesses as well as equity investments. Avoiding the speculative market, Buffett continued to hunt for attractive underated businesses. In 1971, he bought a controlling interest in See's Candies.
By early January 1973, the Dow had climbed to an all time high of 1,051 points. But only $17 million of Berkshire's $101 million insurance portfolio was invested in stocks; the rest was in bonds. Not long after this high, the market swooned. The it racheted down further. By October 1974, it hit a low of 580 points. Investors panicked but Buffett rejoiced. He was in his elements once again.
Over the following years, Buffett bagged big game at bargain prices, adding Wesco Financial and buying large blocks of stocks in The Washington Post and Geico. In 1977, Buffett bought The Buffalo News.
Buffett's belief that analysing the substance and character of a business was the holy grail of investing. Guessing a price that someone else was willing to pay - irrespective of fundamentals - was not.