一个实业家的诞生——读巴菲特的信(9.1)

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一个实业家的诞生——读巴菲特的信(9.1)

Barrons

浮存的秘密


保险是伯克希尔的主营业务,也是最重要的业务。保险的商业模式在于浮存和投资。浮存的成本以及投资回报率是关键。相对而言,某一年的承保损失并不重要。但是,由于保险的复杂性,以及大量运用估计,保险业务的数字有可能变化很大,也给了不良公司巨大的空间来操纵数字。这对一般的投资者非常不利。

TheEconomics of Property/Casualty Insurance

财产意外险的经济特性

Our main business — though we have others of great importance — is insurance. To understand Berkshire, therefore, it is necessary that you understand how to evaluate an insurance company. The key determinants are: (1) the amount of float that the business generates; (2) its cost; and (3) most critical of all, the long-term outlook for both of these factors.

虽然我们有其他非常重要的业务,但我们的主要业务是保险。要了解伯克希尔,你必须知道如何评估一个保险公司。主要的决定因素是:(1)业务所产生的浮存的量;(2)浮存的成本;以及(3)最重要的因素是浮存量及其成本的长期前景。

To begin with, float is money we hold but don't own. In an insurance operation, float arises because premiums are received before losses are paid, an interval that sometimes extends over many years. During that time, the insurer invests the money. This pleasant activity typically carries with it a downside: The premiums that an insurer takes in usually do not cover the losses and expenses it eventually must pay. That leaves it running an 'underwriting loss,' which is the cost of float. An insurance business has value if its cost of float over time is less than the cost the company would otherwise incur to obtain funds. But the business is a lemon if its cost of float is higher than market rates for money.

首先,浮存就是我们持有但不拥有的钱。在一个保险运营,浮存的产生是由于保费在赔付之前支付,之间的间隔有时长达许多年。在这期间,保险公司把钱投资。这一愉快的活动有一个坏处:保险公司拿到的保费往往无法足够支付赔付和其最终必须支付的费用。这就导致保险公司的“承保损失”运营。这种损失就是浮存的成本。如果一个保险公司的浮存成本在长期低于这个公司从别处获得资金的成本,那么这个保险业务是有价值的。但如果其浮存成本高于市场资金成本,那么这个业务是个没用的业务。

A caution is appropriate here: Because loss costs must be estimated, insurers have enormous latitude in figuring their underwriting results, and that makes it very difficult for investors to calculate a company's true cost of float. Errors of estimation, usually innocent but sometimes not, can be huge. The consequences of these miscalculations flow directly into earnings. An experienced observer can usually detect large-scale errors in reserving, but the general public can typically do no more than accept what's presented, and at times I have been amazed by the numbers that big-name auditors have implicitly blessed. Both the income statements and balance sheets of insurers can be minefields.

一个特别值得注意的事:由于赔付必须是估计的,保险公司在搞清其承保结果时有极大的自由度。这让投资者很难计算一个公司的真实浮存成本。估计错误可以非常大,通常是无恶意的,但有时却不是。这些计算错误的结果直接影响盈利。一个有经验的观察者通常能察觉大规模的准备金错误。但是普通公众一般却只能接受呈现出的结果。有时我都惊异于著名会计审计事务所无保留确认的数字。保险公司的资产负债表和利润表都有可能是雷区。

At Berkshire, we strive to be both consistent and conservative in our reserving. But we will make mistakes. And we warn you that there is nothing symmetrical about surprises in the insurance business: They almost always are unpleasant.
在伯克希尔,我们努力做到在我们的准备金上稳定而保守。但是,我们将犯错误。而且我警告你们,在保险业务,没有什么意外是对称的:那些意外总是令人不快的。

2000年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

MeasuringInsurance Performance
衡量保险业绩

In the previous section I mentioned 'float,' the funds of others that insurers, in the conduct of their business, temporarily hold. Because these funds are available to be invested, the typical property-casualty insurer can absorb losses and expenses that exceed premiums by 7% to 11% and still be able to break even on its business. Again, this calculation excludes the earnings the insurer realizes on net worth - that is, on the funds provided by shareholders.
在前面部分我提到了“浮存”,即保险公司在进行其业务时暂时保管的他人资金。因为这些资金可以被用来投资,典型的财产意外险公司能吸收超过保费7-11%的赔付和费用,而仍能达到业务的盈亏平衡。当然,这个计算没有包括保险公司在净值之上的收益,也就是用股东的钱获得的收益。

However, many exceptions to this 7% to 11% range exist. For example, insurance covering losses to crops from hail damage produces virtually no float at all. Premiums on this kind of business are paid to the insurer just prior to the time hailstorms are a threat, and if a farmer sustains a loss he will be paid almost immediately. Thus, a combined ratio of 100 for crop hail insurance produces no profit for the insurer.
但是,在这7-11%的范围之外存在很多例外情况。比如承保农作物冰雹损失的保险几乎就根本没有浮存。这种业务的保费刚好在冰雹成为威胁的季节之前支付给保险公司,而如果农民受到了损失,他将几乎立即得到偿付。所以,一个综合成本率为100%的农作物冰雹险不给保险公司产生利润。

At the other extreme, malpractice insurance covering the potential liabilities of doctors, lawyers and accountants produces a very high amount of float compared to annual premium volume. The float materializes because claims are often brought long after the alleged wrongdoing takes place and because their payment may be still further delayed by lengthy litigation. The industry calls malpractice and certain other kinds of liability insurance 'long- tail' business, in recognition of the extended period during which insurers get to hold large sums that in the end will go to claimants and their lawyers (and to the insurer's lawyers as well).
另外一个极端,执业过失险承保了医生,律师,和会计师的潜在责任,与每年的保费量相比,产生了大量的浮存。能够实现浮存是因为索赔经常是在声称的过失发生后很久,而且还因为赔付往往被长时间的诉讼过程所拖延。保险行业把执业过失险和其他一些责任险称为“长尾”业务,意思是保险公司得以长期拿着大量的保费,而最终这些保费都会流向索赔人及其律师(以及保险公司的律师)。

In long-tail situations a combined ratio of 115 (or even more) can prove profitable, since earnings produced by the float will exceed the 15% by which claims and expenses overrun premiums. The catch, though, is that 'long-tail' means exactly that: Liability business written in a given year and presumed at first to have produced a combined ratio of 115 may eventually smack the insurer with 200, 300 or worse when the years have rolled by and all claims have finally been settled.
在长尾情况下,一个115%(或者更高)的综合成本率可能是盈利的,因为由浮存产生的收益将超过15%的索赔和费用出超保费部分。但一个隐含的问题是,“长尾”顾名思义:某一年承保的责任险开始假定能产生115%的综合成本率,但是当多年过去后,所有的索赔都终于被解决,最终综合成本率可能高达200%300%或者更高,从而打击保险公司。

The pitfalls of this business mandate an operating principle that too often is ignored: Though certain long-tail lines may prove profitable at combined ratios of 110 or 115, insurers will invariably find it unprofitable to price using those ratios as targets. Instead, prices must provide a healthy margin of safety against the societal trends that are forever springing expensive surprises on the insurance industry. Setting a target of 100 can itself result in heavy losses; aiming for 110 - 115 is business suicide.
这种业务的陷阱让其必须有一个运营原则,而这一原则常常被忽视:虽然某些长尾业务在110-115%的综合成本率有可能盈利,但保险公司如果用这作为目标,他们将总是发现自己无法盈利。价格必须提供健康的安全边际,以应对永远给保险行业带来昂贵惊讶的社会趋势。设定100%的综合成本率目标将带来严重亏损;目标设定在110-115是商业上的自杀。

All of that said, what should the measure of an insurer's profitability be? Analysts and managers customarily look to the combined ratio - and it's true that this yardstick usually is a good indicator of where a company ranks in profitability. We believe a better measure, however, to be a comparison of underwriting loss to float developed.
说了那么多,什么才应该是衡量一个保险公司盈利的标准?分析师和经理人习惯上看综合成本率。确实,这个尺度通常是公司盈利排名的好指标。但我们我们相信,一个更好的衡量标准是承保损失与浮存的比。

This loss/float ratio, like any statistic used in evaluating insurance results, is meaningless over short time periods: Quarterly underwriting figures and even annual ones are too heavily based on estimates to be much good. But when the ratio takes in a period of years, it gives a rough indication of the cost of funds generated by insurance operations. A low cost of funds signifies a good business; a high cost translates into a poor business.
这个损失/浮存比率,就像任何用来评估保险结果的统计指标一样,用在短期是毫无意义的。季度承保数字,甚至年度数字都过于严重的依赖估计,意义不大。但是长达几年的比率,就大致显示出保险运营产生的资金成本。一个低成本的资金显示出一个好的业务;一个高成本则意味着糟糕的业务。

On the next page we show the underwriting loss, if any, of our insurance group in each year since we entered the business and relate that bottom line to the average float we have held during the year. From this data we have computed a 'cost of funds developed from insurance.'
在下一页我们列出了自我们进入保险这一行业以来,我们保险集团每年的承保损失(如果有的话),以及与之相对应的我们在那一年所持有的平均浮存。从这组数据我们计算出了“保险提供资金的成本。”
(1) (2) Yearend Yield
Underwriting Approximate on Long-Term
Loss Average Float Cost of Funds Govt. Bonds
------------ ------------ --------------- -------------
(In $ Millions) (Ratio of 1 to 2)
1967 .........profit $17.3 less than zero 5.50%
1968 .........profit 19.9 less than zero 5.90%
1969 .........profit 23.4 less than zero 6.79%
1970 .........$0.37 32.4 1.14% 6.25%
1971 .........profit 52.5 less than zero 5.81%
1972 .........profit 69.5 less than zero 5.82%
1973 .........profit 73.3 less than zero 7.27%
1974 .........7.36 79.1 9.30% 8.13%
1975 .........11.35 87.6 12.96% 8.03%
1976 .........profit 102.6 less than zero 7.30%
1977 .........profit 139.0 less than zero 7.97%
1978 .........profit 190.4 less than zero 8.93%
1979 .........profit 227.3 less than zero 10.08%
1980 .........profit 237.0 less than zero 11.94%
1981 .........profit 228.4 less than zero 13.61%
1982 .........21.56 220.6 9.77% 10.64%
1983 .........33.87 231.3 14.64% 11.84%
1984 .........48.06 253.2 18.98% 11.58%
1985 .........44.23 390.2 11.34% 9.34%
1986 .........55.84 797.5 7.00% 7.60%
1987 .........55.43 1,266.7 4.38% 8.95%
1988 .........11.08 1,497.7 0.74% 9.00%
1989 .........24.40 1,541.3 1.58% 7.97%
1990 .........26.65 1,637.3 1.63% 8.24%
The float figures are derived from the total of loss reserves, loss adjustment expense reserves and unearned premium reserves minus agents' balances, prepaid acquisition costs and deferred charges applicable to assumed reinsurance. At some insurers other items should enter into the calculation, but in our case these are unimportant and have been ignored.
浮存的数字是用赔款准备金,理赔费用准备金和预收保费准备金之和减去代理人余额,预付获得客户成本和承担的再保险的递延费用。在有些保险公司,其他项目也应该记入这个计算,但在我们的例子里这些都不重要,已经被忽略了。

During 1990 we held about $1.6 billion of float slated eventually to find its way into the hands of others. The underwriting loss we sustained during the year was $27 million and thus our insurance operation produced funds for us at a cost of about 1.6%. As the table shows, we managed in some years to underwrite at a profit and in those instances our cost of funds was less than zero. In other years, such as 1984, we paid a very high price for float. In 19 years out of the 24 we have been in insurance, though, we have developed funds at a cost below that paid by the government.
1990年我们持有大约16亿美金的浮存,这些浮存最终将流到其他人手中。我们在这一年的承保损失是2700万美元。所以我们的保险运营所产生的资金,对于我们来说成本为1.6%。如表格所示,我们在一些年实现了承保盈利,在那种情况我们的资金成本低于零。而在另外一些年,如1984年,我们为浮存付出了极高的代价。我们在保险行业的24年中,有19年我们以低于政府支付的成本获得了资金。

There are two important qualifications to this calculation. First, the fat lady has yet to gargle, let alone sing, and we won't know our true 1967 - 1990 cost of funds until all losses from this period have been settled many decades from now. Second, the value of the float to shareholders is somewhat undercut by the fact that they must put up their own funds to support the insurance operation and are subject to double taxation on the investment income these funds earn. Direct investments would be more tax-efficient.
这个计算有两个重要的限定条件。首先,还远没到结束的时候。我们无法知道19671990年这段时间真实的资金成本,这要直到几十年后,所有这一时期的赔付都解决后才行。第二,浮存对于股东的价值有些降低。因为股东必须投入他们的资金来支持保险运营,而且在浮存资金所获得的投资收益上受到双重征税。直接投资在税收上更有效。

The tax penalty that indirect investments impose on shareholders is infact substantial. Though the calculation is necessarily imprecise, I would estimate that the owners of the average insurance company would find the tax penalty adds about one percentage point to their cost of float. I also think that approximates the correct figure for Berkshire.
由于间接投资而强加给股东的税务惩罚实际上很重。虽然计算不一定精确,但我估计保险公司的拥有者平均而言会发现税务惩罚加在一起大概是浮存成本的1个百分点。我认为这对伯克希尔也是个正确的估计数字。

Figuring a cost of funds for an insurance business allows anyone analyzing it to determine whether the operation has a positive or negative value for shareholders. If this cost (including the tax penalty) is higher than that applying to alternative sources of funds, the value is negative. If the cost is lower, the value is positive - and if the cost is significantly lower, the insurance business qualifies as a very valuable asset.
算出一个保险公司的资金成本能让任何人对此进行分析,以决定这个保险业务对股东的价值是正还是负。如果这个成本(包括税务惩罚)高于其他来源资金的成本,这一价值就是负的。如果这个成本更低,则价值为正。而如果这一成本显著低于其他来源的资金成本,这个保险业务够得上是一个非常有价值的资产。

So far Berkshire has fallen into the significantly-lower camp. Even more dramatic are the numbers at GEICO, in which our ownership interest is now 48% and which customarily operates at an underwriting profit. GEICO's growth has generated an ever-larger amount of funds for investment that have an effective cost of considerably less than zero. Essentially, GEICO's policyholders, in aggregate, pay the company interest on the float rather than the other way around. (But handsome is as handsome does: GEICO's unusual profitability results from its extraordinary operating efficiency and its careful classification of risks, a package that in turn allows rock-bottom prices for policyholders.)
目前为止伯克希尔的资金成本属于显著低于其他来源的一类。GEICO的数字更加突出。我们拥有GEICO48%的股份。他们通常的运营具有承保盈利。GEICO的增长产生了不断增加的大量资金用于投资,而这部分资金的实际成本远低于零。基本上,GEICO的保险客户作为一个整体向公司支付浮存的利息,而不是公司支付利息给保险客户。(但是GEICO不仅盈利,其内部运营才是根本:GEICO不同寻常的盈利能力来自于其卓越的运营效率及精心划分的风险,这一组合让给投保人的价格达到最低。)

Many well-known insurance companies, on the other hand, incur an underwriting loss/float cost that, combined with the tax penalty, produces negative results for owners. In addition, these companies, like all others in the industry, are vulnerable to catastrophe losses that could exceed their reinsurance protection and take their cost of float right off the chart. Unless these companies can materially improve their underwriting performance - and history indicates that is an almost impossible task - their shareholders will experience results similar to those borne by the owners of a bank that pays a higher rate of interest on deposits than it receives on loans.
很多知名的保险公司却不一样,其承保损失/浮存成本与税务惩罚加在一起产生了对拥有者负的结果。另外,这些公司与行业中其他公司一样,容易受到有可能超出再保险保护的灾难性损失的打击,从而让浮存成本大幅提高。除非这些公司能实实在在的提高承保业绩(历史表明这几乎是不可能完成的任务),他们的股东将遭受损失。这就如同一个银行股东的遭遇,这个银行支付比贷款利息还高的存款利息。

All in all, the insurance business has treated us very well. We have expanded our float at a cost that on the average is reasonable, and we have further prospered because we have earned good returns on these low-cost funds. Our shareholders, true, have incurred extra taxes, but they have been more than compensated for this cost (so far) by the benefits produced by the float.
总而言之,保险业务对我们来说很不错。我们以平均而言合理的成本扩大了浮存。而由于我们在这些低成本资金上获得了良好的回报,我们进一步获利。我们的股东确实交了额外的税,但他们所获得的补偿,即由于浮存所获得的好处,目前为止远超过税务成本。

A particularly encouraging point about our record is that it was achieved despite some colossal mistakes made by your Chairman prior to Mike Goldberg's arrival. Insurance offers a host of opportunities for error, and when opportunity knocked, too often I answered. Many years later, the bills keep arriving for these mistakes: In the insurance business, there is no statute of limitations on stupidity.
一个尤其令人鼓舞的事情是,记录表明虽然你们的董事长在MikeGoldberg来之前犯下了巨大的错误,保险业仍然取得了如此业绩。保险有很多机会容易犯错,当这些机会出现时,我做出了应对。很多年以后,这些错误带来的帐单持续到来:在保险业务,没有对愚蠢的法律时限。

The intrinsic value of our insurance business will always be far more difficult to calculate than the value of, say, our candy or newspaper companies. By any measure, however, the business is worth far more than its carrying value. Furthermore, despite the problems this operation periodically hands us, it is the one - among all the fine businesses we own - that has the greatest potential.
我们保险业务的内在价值将一直比其他业务,如糖果和报纸公司的价值,更难计算。无论如何衡量,这一业务的价值都远超过其帐面价值。更重要是,虽然这一运营偶尔带给我们麻烦,但在我们拥有的所有优秀业务中,保险具有最大的潜力。

1990年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

Berkshire's insurance business has changed in ways that make combined ratios, our own or the industry's, largely irrelevant to our performance. What counts with us is the 'cost of funds developed from insurance,' or in the vernacular, 'the cost of float.'
伯克希尔的保险业务已经改变,这让综合成本率,无论是我们自己还是行业的综合成本率,大体上与我们的业绩无关。对我们重要的是“保险产生资金的成本”,或者用白话说“浮存成本”。

Float - which we generate in exceptional amounts - is the total of loss reserves, loss adjustment expense reserves and unearned premium reserves minus agents balances, prepaid acquisition costs and deferred charges applicable to assumed reinsurance. And the cost of float is measured by our underwriting loss.
我们产生了大量的浮存。这是用赔款准备金,理赔费用准备金和预收保费准备金之和减去代理人余额,预付获得客户成本和承担的再保险的递延费用。而浮存成本则用我们的承保损失来衡量。

The table below shows our cost of float since we entered the business in 1967.
下面的表格显示的是自1967年我们进入这一业务以来我们的浮存成本。
(1) (2) Yearend Yield
Underwriting Approximate on Long-Term
Loss Average Float Cost of Funds Govt. Bonds
------------ ------------- --------------- -------------
(In $ Millions) (Ratio of 1 to 2)
1967 ........profit $17.3 less than zero 5.50%
1968 ........profit 19.9 less than zero 5.90%
1969 ........profit 23.4 less than zero 6.79%
1970 ........$0.37 32.4 1.14% 6.25%
1971 ........profit 52.5 less than zero 5.81%
1972 ........profit 69.5 less than zero 5.82%
1973 ........profit 73.3 less than zero 7.27%
1974 ........7.36 79.1 9.30% 8.13%
1975 ........11.35 87.6 12.96% 8.03%
1976 ........profit 102.6 less than zero 7.30%
1977 ........profit 139.0 less than zero 7.97%
1978 ........profit 190.4 less than zero 8.93%
1979 ........profit 227.3 less than zero 10.08%
1980 ........profit 237.0 less than zero 11.94%
1981 ........profit 228.4 less than zero 13.61%
1982 ........21.56 220.6 9.77% 10.64%
1983 ........33.87 231.3 14.64% 11.84%
1984 ........48.06 253.2 18.98% 11.58%
1985 ........44.23 390.2 11.34% 9.34%
1986 ........55.84 797.5 7.00% 7.60%
1987 ........55.43 1,266.7 4.38% 8.95%
1988 ........11.08 1,497.7 0.74% 9.00%
1989 ........24.40 1,541.3 1.58% 7.97%
1990 ........26.65 1,637.3 1.63% 8.24%
1991 ........119.6 1,895.0 6.31% 7.40%
As you can see,our cost of funds in 1991 was well below the U. S. Government's cost on newly-issued long-term bonds. We have in fact beat the government's rate in 20 of the 25 years we have been in the insurance business, often by a wide margin. We have over that time also substantially increased the amount of funds we hold, which counts as a favorable development but only because the cost of funds has been satisfactory. Our float should continue to grow; the challenge will be to garner these funds at a reasonable cost.
正如你所看到的,我们在1991年的资金成本远低于美国政府新发行的长期债券的成本。实际上,我们在保险业务的25年里,有20年都好于政府的利率,常常是好很多。在那期间,我们还大规模的增加了我们持有的资金。这只有在资金成本一直令人满意的情况下才是对我们有利的发展。我们的浮存应该继续增长。而挑战将在于用合理的成本取得这些资金。

1991年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

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