一个实业家的诞生——读巴菲特的信(10)

2011-10-24 10:14阅读:

一个实业家的诞生——读巴菲特的信(10)

Barrons

通胀的危害

对于通胀,企业家的感触很深。通胀不仅提高成本,还吞噬企业赖以发展的资本,最终减少企业给拥有者的回报。

Like virginity, a stable price level seem
s capable of maintenance, but not of restoration.

稳定的价格水平如童贞,看来是能保持,却不能修复。

1981年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

But before we drown in a sea of self-congratulation, a further - and crucial - observation must be made. A few years ago, a business whose per-share net worth compounded at 20% annually would have guaranteed its owners a highly successful real investment return. Now such an outcome seems less certain. For the inflation rate, coupled with individual tax rates, will be the ultimate determinant as to whether our internal operating performance produces successful investment results - i.e., a reasonable gain in purchasing power from funds committed - for you as shareholders.

在我们陷入自我夸奖之前,必须作进一步,而且是关键的一个观察。几年前,一个每股净资产以每年20%的复利增长的企业肯定能给拥有者带来高度成功的真实投资回报。目前,这种结果显得不那么确定。因为通胀和个人税率结合在一起,将最终决定内部运营业绩能否产生成功的投资结果,也就是说对你们股东来说,投入的资金有合理的购买力增加。

Just as the original 3% savings bond, a 5% passbook savings account or an 8% U.S. Treasury Note have, in turn, been transformed by inflation into financial instruments that chew up, rather than enhance, purchasing power over their investment lives, a business earning 20% on capital can produce a negative real return for its owners under inflationary conditions not much more severe than presently prevail.

正如原来的3%的储蓄债券,5%的存折帐户,或者8%的美国国债已经被通胀变为了在投资的生命周期内,吞噬,而不是提高购买力的金融工具。一个赢得20%资本回报率的企业,在比目前稍微严重的通胀条件下能给拥有者带来负的回报。

If we should continue to achieve a 20% compounded gain - not an easy or certain result by any means - and this gain is translated into a corresponding increase in the market value of Berkshire Hathaway stock as it has been over the last fifteen years, your after-tax purchasing power gain is likely to be very close to zero at a 14% inflation rate. Most of the remaining six percentage points will go for income tax any time you wish to convert your twenty percentage points of nominal annual gain into cash.

如果我们继续取得20%的复利增长,无论如何这不容易也不确定。这种复利增长在过去15年转化成了相应的伯克希尔股票市场价值的增长。但是在14%的通胀条件下,你的税后购买力增长很有可能是零。任何时候你希望把20个百分点的名义年收入变为现金,剩下的六个百分点大部分将流向收入税。

That combination - the inflation rate plus the percentage of capital that must be paid by the owner to transfer into his own pocket the annual earnings achieved by the business (i.e., ordinary income tax on dividends and capital gains tax on retained earnings) - can be thought of as an “investor’s misery index”. When this index exceeds the rate of return earned on equity by the business, the investor’s purchasing power (real capital) shrinks even though he consumes nothing at all. We have no corporate solution to this problem; high inflation rates will not help us earn higher rates of return on equity.

通胀,以及拥有者把自己企业的年度盈利转到自己口袋里时必须支付一定百分比的资本(比如正常分红的收入税和存留收益的资本利得税),这两者相加可以看成是“投资者的痛苦指数”。当这个指数超过企业的资本回报率,投资者的购买力(真实资本)缩小为零,即使他没有消费任何东西。我们没有针对这个问题的企业对策;高通胀不会帮助我们获得更高的资本回报率。

One friendly but sharp-eyed commentator on Berkshire has pointed out that our book value at the end of 1964 would have bought about one-half ounce of gold and, fifteen years later, after we have plowed back all earnings along with much blood, sweat and tears, the book value produced will buy about the same half ounce. A similar comparison could be drawn with Middle Eastern oil. The rub has been that government has been exceptionally able in printing money and creating promises, but is unable to print gold or create oil.

一个友好但眼光敏锐的伯克希尔评论者指出,我们在1964年底的净资产大概能买半盎司的黄金。但15年后,当我们投入所有的盈利,外加血汗和泪水,所产生的净资产也只能买同样的半盎司黄金。同样的比较也可以用在中东石油上。一直让人恼火的是,政府向来尤其能印钱,创造承诺,却无法印金子或创造石油。

We intend to continue to do as well as we can in managing the internal affairs of the business. But you should understand that external conditions affecting the stability of currency may very well be the most important factor in determining whether there are any real rewards from your investment in Berkshire Hathaway.

我们致力于继续管理好内部业务。但你应理解的是,影响货币稳定的外部环境有可能是决定你对伯克希尔·哈撒韦的投资是否有任何真实回报的最关键因素。

1979年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

High rates of inflation create a tax on capital that makes much corporate investment unwise - at least if measured by the criterion of a positive real investment return to owners. This “hurdle rate” the return on equity that must be achieved by a corporation in order to produce any real return for its individual owners - has increased dramatically in recent years. The average tax-paying investor is now running up a down escalator whose pace has accelerated to the point where his upward progress is nil.

高通胀创造了一个资本税,这个税让大多数企业投资变得不明智,至少如果用对拥有者正的真实投资回报的标准来衡量是如此。这个资本回报率的最低门槛,即企业给个人拥有者产生任何真实回报所必须取得的最低资本回报率,在最近几年显著上升。一般纳税水平的投资者现在是在一个下行的自动扶梯往上跑。自动扶梯的节奏已经加快到了一定程度,让投资者向上的进展为零。

1980年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)


顺风行业易,扭亏为盈难

巴菲特意识到,处在一个顺风发展的行业非常重要,所谓的“扭亏为盈”极少成功,除非企业本身的优异本质仍然没有改变,否则就是巧妇难为无米之炊。

The textile industry illustrates in textbook style how producers of relatively undifferentiated goods in capital intensive businesses must earn inadequate returns except under conditions of tight supply or real shortage. As long as excess productive capacity exists, prices tend to reflect direct operating costs rather than capital employed. Such a supply-excess condition appears likely to prevail most of the time in the textile industry, and our expectations are for profits of relatively modest amounts in relation to capital.

纺织行业用教科书式的方式说明了,在一个产品无法差异化,资本投入巨大的行业中的企业,除非供应紧缺,否则其必然无法获得足够的回报。只要产能过剩存在,价格就会反映直接运营成本,而不是所使用的资本。这种过度供应的情况在纺织行业长期广泛存在。而我们对纺织业的预期是与投入的资本相比获得一定的盈利。

1978年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)


It is comforting to be in a business where some mistakes can be made and yet a quite satisfactory overall performance can be achieved. In a sense, this is the opposite case from our textile business where even very good management probably can average only modest results. One of the lessons your management has learned - and, unfortunately, sometimes re-learned - is the importance of being in businesses where tailwinds prevail rather than headwinds.

处在一个可以犯错,却仍能取得相当满意的整体结果的行业,这令人感到宽慰。从某种意义上说,这与我们的纺织业务截然相反。在纺织行业,非常好的管理层可能平均而言却只能取得一般的结果。你们的管理层所学到的,不幸的是有时是反复学到的一个教训就是,在一个处于顺风而不是逆风的行业有多重要。

1977年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

Harking back to our textile experience, we should have realized the futility of trying to be very clever (via sinking funds and other special type issues) in an area where the tide was running heavily against us.

回忆在纺织业的经历,我们应当意识到在一个潮流强势逆你而动的领域,想耍小聪明(通过储备金或其他特殊的项目)是毫无益处的。

1979年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

Both our operating and investment experience cause us to conclude that “turnarounds” seldom turn, and that the same energies and talent are much better employed in a good business purchased at a fair price than in a poor business purchased at a bargain price.

我们的运营和投资经验都让我们明确意识到“扭亏为盈”极少成功。把同样的精力和才干,投入到一个用合理价格购买的好的业务中,会有好得多的结果,远超过投入一个差的业务的效果,即使差的业务的购买价格非常便宜。

1979年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

We have written in past reports about the disappointments that usually result from purchase and operation of “turnaround” businesses. Literally hundreds of turnaround possibilities in dozens of industries have been described to us over the years and, either as participants or as observers, we have tracked performance against expectations. Our conclusion is that, with few exceptions, when a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for poor fundamental economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact.

我们在过去的报告中写到了通常情况下购买及运营“扭亏为盈”业务的失望结果。在过去一些年,在很多行业的几百个扭亏为盈的机会曾经呈现给我们,或者邀我们参与,或者让我们入股作为旁观者。我们追踪了这些扭亏为盈机会的表现,并与之前的预期相比较。我们的结论是,除了少数例外情况,当具有卓越名声的管理层去着手解决一个有着糟糕经济基本面名声的业务时,业务的糟糕名声原样不动(而管理层则名声扫地)。

GEICO may appear to be an exception, having been turned around from the very edge of bankruptcy in 1976. It certainly is true that managerial brilliance was needed for its resuscitation, and that Jack Byrne, upon arrival in that year, supplied that ingredient in abundance.

GEICO似乎是个例外,已经被从1976年的破产边缘拯救回来。当然,它的复兴需要卓越的管理。当Jack Byrne从到达的那年起,就贡献了大量的卓越管理。

But it also is true that the fundamental business advantage that GEICO had enjoyed - an advantage that previously had produced staggering success - was still intact within the company, although submerged in a sea of financial and operating troubles.

同样重要的是,GEICO曾经享有的业务基本面优势,一个曾经创造了令人难以置信的成功的优势,历经大量的财务和运营问题,仍然存留于公司内部,毫发无损。

GEICO was designed to be the low-cost operation in an enormous marketplace (auto insurance) populated largely by companies whose marketing structures restricted adaptation. Run as designed, it could offer unusual value to its customers while earning unusual returns for itself. For decades it had been run in just this manner. Its troubles in the mid-70s were not produced by any diminution or disappearance of this essential economic advantage.

GEICO当初的设计就是在一个大市场(汽车保险)中低成本运营。这个市场充斥了各种公司,这些公司的市场营销结构限制其模仿GEICO的运营方式。如果按照设计运营,GEICO能给客户提供异乎寻常的价值,同时自己获得异乎寻常的盈利回报。在几十年的时间里,它就是这么运营的。它在70年代中期的问题并不是由于这种基本的经济优势的弱化或消失。

GEICO’s problems at that time put it in a position analogous to that of American Express in 1964 following the salad oil scandal. Both were one-of-a-kind companies, temporarily reeling from the effects of a fiscal blow that did not destroy their exceptional underlying economics. The GEICO and American Express situations, extraordinary business franchises with a localized excisable cancer (needing, to be sure, a skilled surgeon), should be distinguished from the true “turnaround” situation in which the managers expect - and need - to pull off a corporate Pygmalion.

GEICO当时的问题与美国运通在1964年色拉油丑闻之后的情形类似。都是独一无二的公司,暂时被财务冲击所席卷,但财务冲击并没有毁掉其优异的内在经济特性。GEICO和美国运通的情况是优异的特许经营权业务,但有局部可切除的癌变(当然,需要一个医术精湛的外科医生)。它们的情况要与真正的“扭亏为盈”情况相区分。在后一种情况中,经理人期望,而且需要做出无米之炊。

1980年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

真实的盈利

盈利的价值不一定会体现在按会计准则报告的数字中,而是体现在对拥有者的价值。盈利虽可贵,自由价更高,只有自由现金流才是对拥有者真正有价值的。

Our own analysis of earnings reality differs somewhat from generally accepted accounting principles, particularly when those principles must be applied in a world of high and uncertain rates of inflation. (But it’s much easier to criticize than to improve such accounting rules. The inherent problems are monumental.) We have owned 100% of businesses whose reported earnings were not worth close to 100 cents on the dollar to us even though, in an accounting sense, we totally controlled their disposition. (The “control” was theoretical. Unless we reinvested all earnings, massive deterioration in the value of assets already in place would occur. But those reinvested earnings had no prospect of earning anything close to a market return on capital.) We have also owned small fractions of businesses with extraordinary reinvestment possibilities whose retained earnings had an economic value to us far in excess of 100 cents on the dollar.

我们自己的真实盈利分析与通用会计准则有所不同,尤其是当那些会计准则必须应用于一个高涨且不确定的通胀世界。(但是批评会计规定比改进会计规定容易多了。固有的问题堆积如山。)有些我们100%拥有的企业,虽然依据会计准则我们完全控制了他们盈利的处置,但他们报告的每一美元盈利对我们来说并不意味着近似一美元。(这“控制”只是理论上的。除非我们把全部盈利重新投入,否则现存资产将大规模减值。而且那些重新投入的盈利无望获得任何接近市场资本回报率的回报。)我们同样拥有一些企业的小部分,这些企业有着优异的投资可能性,其每一美元存留收益对我们的经济价值远超过一美元。

The value to Berkshire Hathaway of retained earnings is not determined by whether we own 100%, 50%, 20% or 1% of the businesses in which they reside. Rather, the value of those retained earnings is determined by the use to which they are put and the subsequent level of earnings produced by that usage.

存留收益对伯克希尔·哈撒韦的价值不取决于我们是拥有100%50%20%,或者1%我们所投资的公司。那些存留收益的价值取决于其具体使用及使用后所产生的盈利水平。

1980年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

Our view, we warn you, is non-conventional. But we would rather have earnings for which we did not get accounting credit put to good use in a 10%-owned company by a management we did not
personally hire, than have earnings for which we did get credit put into projects of more dubious potential by another management - even if we are that management.

我提醒你,我们对盈利的观点是非传统的。但是我们宁愿要在会计上不属于我们,但却能得到良好运用的盈利,即使我们只拥有10%的公司,管理层不是我们亲自雇佣的。我们不愿要在会计上属于我们,但却被另一个管理层投入有疑问项目的盈利,即使我们就是那个管理层。

1980年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

We are not at all unhappy when our wholly-owned businesses retain all of their earnings if they can utilize internally those funds at attractive rates. Why should we feel differently about retention of earnings by companies in which we hold small equity interests, but where the record indicates even better prospects for profitable employment of capital? (This proposition cuts the other way, of course, in industries with low capital requirements, or if management has a record of plowing capital into projects of low profitability; then earnings should be paid out or used to repurchase shares - often by far the most attractive option for capital utilization.)

我们完全拥有的企业如果能以诱人的回报率内部使用盈利,我们一点儿也不会感到不高兴。如果我们拥有小部分股份的公司,其记录显示他们能以更高的回报使用资本,我们为什么会感到有所不同呢?(当然,这个主张将在如下情况发生改变:在低资本投入需求的行业,或者如果管理层有把资本投向低盈利性项目的记录。那么,盈利应该被用来回购股份,这常常是到目前为止资本使用最诱人的选择。)

1978年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

If you have owned .01 of 1% of Berkshire during the past decade, you have benefited economically in full measure from your share of our retained earnings, no matter what your accounting system. Proportionately, you have done just as well as if you had owned the magic 20%. But if you have owned 100% of a great many capital-intensive businesses during the decade, retained earnings that were credited fully and with painstaking precision to you under standard accounting methods have resulted in minor or zero economic value. This is not a criticism of accounting procedures. We would not like to have the job of designing a better system. It’s simply to say that managers and investors alike must understand that accounting numbers are the beginning, not the end, of business valuation.

如果你在过去10年拥有伯克希尔百分之一股份的0.01,无论你的会计系统是什么,你都已经从我们的存留收益中获得了全部的经济收益。按比例,如果你拥有会计规定的神奇的20%的伯克希尔股份,你也能获得同样的收益。但是,如果在过去10年里,你100%拥有很多资本密集型的企业,那么按照标准会计方法详细精确计算的存留收益将全部归你,但却只能产生极少或者零经济价值。这并不是批评会计程序。我们不想承担设计一个更好的系统的任务。这只是说经理人和投资者们必须理解,会计数字只是商业估值的开始,而不是结束。

1982年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)

Our acquisition preferences run toward businesses that generate cash, not those that consume it. As inflation intensifies, more and more companies find that they must spend all funds they generate internally just to maintain their existing physical volume of business. There is a certain mirage-like quality to such operations. However attractive the earnings numbers, we remain leery of businesses that never seem able to convert such pretty numbers into no-strings-attached cash.

我们的并购偏好于产生现金的企业,而不是消耗现金的企业。当通胀加剧时,越来越多的企业发现他们必须花掉内部产生的所有资金,才能仅仅维持目前的业务量。这些运营有点儿像海市蜃楼。无论盈利的数字如何诱人,我们对那些永远也不能把美好的数字变成没有任何附带条件的现金的企业抱有疑虑。

1980年给伯克希尔·哈撒韦股东的信)