2011-10-16 21:41阅读:





I have it from unreliable sources that the cost of the voyage Isabella originally underwrote for Columbus was approximately $30,000. This has been co
nsidered at least a moderately successful utilization of venture capital. Without attempting to evaluate the psychic income derived from finding a new hemisphere, it must be pointed out that even had squatter's rights prevailed, the whole deal was not exactly another IBM. Figured very roughly, the $30,000 invested at 4% compounded annually would have amounted to something like $2,000,000,000,000 (that's $2 trillion for those of you who are not government statisticians) by 1962. Historical apologists for the Indians of Manhattan may find refuge in similar calculations. Such fanciful geometric progressions illustrate the value of either living a long time, or compounding your money at a decent rate. I have nothing particularly helpful to say on the former point.


The following table indicates the compounded value of $100,000 at 5%, 10% and 15% for 10, 20 and 30 years. It is always startling to see how relatively small differences in rates add up to very significant sums over a period of years. That is why, even though we are shooting for more, we feel that a few percentage points advantage over the Dow is a very worthwhile achievement. It can mean a lot of dollars over adecade or two.



Since the whole subject of compounding has such a crass ring to it, I will attempt to introduce a little class into this discussion by turning to the art world. Francis I of France paid 4,000 ecus in 1540 for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. On the off chance that a few of you have not kept track of the fluctuations of the ecu 4,000 converted out to about $20,000.


If Francis had kept his feet on the ground and he (and his trustees) had been able to find a 6% after-tax investment, the estate now would be worth something over $1,000,000,000,000,000.00. That's $1 quadrillionor over 3,000 times the present national debt, all from 6%. I trust this will end all discussion in our household about any purchase of paintings qualifying as an investment.




The results continue to show that the most highly paid and respected investment advice has difficulty matching the performance of an unmanaged index of blue-chip stocks. This in no sense condemns these institutions or the investment advisers and trust departments whose methods, reasoning, and results largely parallel such investment companies. These media perform a substantial service to millions of investors in achieving adequate diversification, providing convenience and peace of mind, avoiding issues of inferior quality,etc. However, their services do not include (and in the great majority of cases, are not represented to include) the compounding of money at a rate greater than that achieved by the general market.


Our partnership's fundamental reason for existence is to compound funds at a better-than-average rate with less exposure to long-term loss of capital than the above investment media. We certainly can not represent that we will achieve this goal. We can and do say that if we don't achieve this goal over any reasonable period excluding an extensive speculative boom, we will cease operation.



The repetition of these tables has caused partners to ask: 'Why in the world does this happen to very intelligent managements working with (1) bright, energetic staff people, (2) virtually unlimited resources, (3) the most extensive business contacts, and (4)literally centuries of aggregate investment experience?' (The latter qualification brings to mind the fellow who applied for a job and stated he had twenty years of experience - which was corrected by the former employer to read “one year's experience -twenty times.”)


This question is of enormous importance, and you would expect it to be the subject of considerable study by investment managers and substantial investors. After all, each percentage point on $30 billion is $300 million per year. Curiously enough, there is practically nothing in the literature of Wall Street attacking this problem, and discussion of it is virtually absent at security analyst society meetings, conventions, seminars, etc. My opinion is that the first job of any investment management organization is to analyze its own techniques and results before pronouncing judgment on the managerial abilities and performance of the major corporate entities of the United States.


In the great majority of cases the lack of performance exceeding or even matching an unmanaged index in no way reflects lack of either intellectual capacity or integrity. I think it is much more the product of: (1) group decisions - my perhaps jaundiced view is that it is close to impossible for outstanding investment management to come from a group of any size with all parties really participating in decisions; (2) a desire to conform to the policies and (to an extent) the portfolios of other large well-regarded organizations;(3) an institutional framework whereby average is 'safe' and the personal rewards for independent action are in no way commensurate with the general risk attached to such action; (4) an adherence to certain diversification practices which are irrational;and finally and importantly, (5) inertia.





In looking at the table of investment company performance, the question might be asked: “Yes, but aren't those companies run more conservatively than the Partnership?' If you asked that question of the investment company managements, they, in absolute honesty, would say they were more conservative. If you asked the first hundred security analysts you met, I am sure that a very large majority of them also would answer for the investment companies. I would disagree. I have over 90% of my net worth in BPL, and most of my family have percentages in that area, but of course, that only demonstrates the sincerity of my view - not the validity of it.


It is unquestionably true that the investment companies have their money more conventionally invested than we do. To many people conventionality is indistinguishable from conservatism. In my view, this represents erroneous thinking. Neither a conventional nor an unconventional approach, per se, is conservative.


Truly conservative actions arise from intelligent hypotheses, correct facts and sound reasoning. These qualities may lead to conventional acts,but there have been many times when they have led to unorthodoxy. In some corner of the world they are probably still holding regular meetings of the Flat Earth Society.


We derive no comfort because important people, vocal people, or great numbers of people agree with us. Nor do we derive comfort if they don't. A public opinion poll is no substitute for thought. When we really sit back with a smile on our face is when we run into a situation we can understand, where the facts are ascertainable and clear, and the course of action obvious. In that case - whether conventional or unconventional – whether others agree or disagree - we feel - we are progressing in a conservative manner.





(1)Our business is one requiring patience. It has little in common with a portfolio of high-flying glamour stocks and during periods of popularity for the latter, we may appear quite stodgy.

It is to our advantage to have securities do nothing price wise for months, or perhaps years, while we are buying them. This points up the need to measure our results over an adequate period of time. We suggest three years as a minimum.



(2)We cannot talk about our current investment operations. Such an open-mouth policy could never improveour results and in some situations could seriously hurt us. For this reason, should anyone, including partners, ask us whether we are interested in any security, we must plead the “5th Amendment.”