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Berkshire Hathaway Letter 1972

To the Stockholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.:

Berkshire Hathaway的全体股东:

Operating earnings of Berkshire Hathaway during 1972 amounted to a highly satisfactory 19.8%
of beginning shareholders’ equity. Significant improvement was recorded in all of our major
lines of business, but the most dramatic gains were in insurance underwriting profit. Due to an
unusual convergence of favorable factors—diminishing auto accident frequency, moderating
accident severity, and an absence of major catastrophes—
underwriting profit margins achieved a
level far above averages of the past or expectations of the future.

伯克希尔 1972年的营运利润十分令人满意,达到了初始股东权益的19.8%


While we anticipate a modest decrease in operating earnings during 1973, it seems clear that our
diversification moves of recent years have established a significantly higher base of normal
earning power. Your present management assumed policy control of the company in May, 1965.
Eight years later, our 1972 operating earnings of $11,116,256 represent a return many-fold
higher than would have been produced had we continued to devote our resources entirely to the
textile business. At the end of the 1964 fiscal year, shareholders’ equity totaled $22,138,753.
Since that time, no additional equity capital has been introduced into the business, either through
cash sale or through merger. On the contrary, some stock has been reacquired, reducing
outstanding shares by 14%. The increase in book value per share from $19.46 at fiscal year-end
1964 to $69.72 at 1972 year-end amounts to about 16.5% compounded annually.




Our three major acquisitions of recent years have all worked out exceptionally well—from both
the financial and human standpoints. In all three cases, the founders were major sellers and
received significant proceeds in cash—and, in all three cases, the same individuals, Jack
Ringwalt, Gene Abegg and Vic Raab, have continued to run the businesses with undiminished
energy and imagination which have resulted in further improvement of the fine records previously established.

我们近年来的三项收购——从财力和人力上——都取得了很好的成效。在这三项收购项目中,被收购企业的创建人是主要的出售方,他们都得到了丰厚的现金收益;同时,Jack Ringwalt, Gene Abegg and Vic Raab三人一直都在以极大的热情和创新经营着业务,这使得我们原本的业绩更上一层楼。

We will continue to search for logical extensions of our present operations, and also for new
operations which will allow us to continue to employ our capital effectively.


Textile Operations


As predicted in last year’s annual report, the textile industry experienced a pickup in 1972. In
recent years, Ken Chace and Ralph Rigby have developed an outstanding sales organization
enjoying a growing reputation for service and reliability. Manufacturing capabilities have been
restructured to complement our sales strengths.

正像在去年的报告中预计的那样,1972年的纺织业表现有了回升。近几年来,Ken Chace Ralph Rigby 建立起了优秀的销售团队,在服务质量和可靠度上享有很高的声誉。我们对生产结构做了一些调整,以辅助销售上的优势。

Helped by the industry recovery, we experienced some payoff from these efforts in 1972.
Inventories were controlled, minimizing close-out losses in addition to minimizing capital
requirements; product mix was greatly improved. While the general level of profitability of the
industry will always be the primary factor in determining the level of our textile earnings, we
believe that our relative position within the industry has noticeably improved. The outlook for
1973 is good.



Insurance Underwriting

Our exceptional underwriting profits during 1972 in the large traditional area of our insurance
business at National Indemnity present a paradox. They served to swell substantially total
corporate profits for 1972, but the factors which produced such profits induced exceptional
amounts of new competition at what we believe to be a non-compensatory level of rates. Over- all, we probably would have retained better prospects for the next five years if profits had not risen so dramatically this year.


Substantial new competition was forecast in our annual report for last year and we experienced
in 1972 the decline in premium volume that we stated such competition implied. Our belief is
that industry underwriting profit margins will narrow substantially in 1973 or 1974 and, in time,
this may produce an environment in which our historical growth can be resumed. Unfortunately,
there is a lag between deterioration of underwriting results and tempering of competition. During
this period we expect to continue to have negative volume comparisons in our traditional
operation. Our seasoned management, headed by Jack Ringwalt and Phil Liesche, will continue
to underwrite to produce a profit, although not at the level of 1972, and base our rates on long-
term expectations rather than short-term hopes. Although this approach has meant dips in volume
from time to time in the past, it has produced excellent long-term results.


Jack Ringwalt Phil Liesche领导的经验丰富的管理层会继续经营承保业务,并带来收益(虽然不会有72年那么高的水平),并且要把利率建立在长期而非短期的预期之上。虽然这种策略在过去有时候会造成业绩的下降,但从长远来看效果还是非常好的。

Also as predicted in last year’s report, our reinsurance division experienced many of the same
competitive factors in 1972. A multitude of new organizations entered what has historically been
a rather small field, and rates were often cut substantially, and we believe unsoundly, particularly
in the catastrophe area. The past year turned out to be unusually free of catastrophes and our
underwriting experience was good.


George Young has built a substantial and profitable reinsurance operation in just a few years. In
the longer term we plan to be a very major factor in the reinsurance field, but an immediate
expansion of volume is not sensible against a background of deteriorating rates. In our view,
underwriting exposures are greater than ever. When the loss potential inherent in such exposures
becomes an actuality, repricing will take place which should give us a chance to expand significantly.

在短短几年的时间里,George Young 已经建立起了稳固并且盈利的再保险业务。从长远来看,我们是打算变成再保险行业内的主力军,但在当前利率不断下跌的大环境下实施扩张策略是不明智的。


In the “home state” operation, our oldest and largest such company, Cornhusker Casualty Company, operating in Nebraska only, achieved good underwriting results. In the second full
year, the home state marketing appeal has been proven with the attainment of volume on the
order of one-third of that achieved by “old line” giants who have operated in the state for many

在本土化业务领域,Cornhusker Casualty——它是我们在这一领域历史最悠久、规模最大的企业,并且只在Nebraska州营业——业绩很不错。仅仅在第二个营业年,它就获得了那些已经经营了数十年、传统的大巨头公司的1/3的营业额,这足以证明我们的本土化业务还是很有市场吸引力的。

Our two smaller companies, in Minnesota and Texas, had unsatisfactory loss ratios on very small
volume. The home state managements understand that underwriting profitably is the yardstick of
success and that operations can only be expanded significantly when it is clear that we are doing
the right job in the underwriting area. Expense ratios at the new companies are also high, but that
is to be expected when they are in the development stage.



John Ringwalt has done an excellent job of launching this operation, and plans to expand into at
least one additional state during 1973. While there is much work yet to be done, the home state
operation appears to have major long-range potential.

John Ringwalt在开展这项业务方面表现很好,计划今年至少进军另外一个州的市场。虽然还有很多工作要做,但本土化业务看起来有超强的潜力。

Last year it was reported that we had acquired Home and Automobile Insurance Company of
Chicago. We felt good about the acquisition at the time, and we feel even better now. Led by Vic
Raab, this company continued its excellent record in 1972. During 1973 we expect to enter the
Florida (Dade County) and California (Los Angeles) markets with the same sort of specialized
urban auto coverage which Home and Auto has practiced so successfully in Cook County. Vic
has the managerial capacity to run a much larger operation. Our expectation is that Home and
Auto will expand significantly within a few years.

去年我们收购了芝加哥的家庭与汽车保险公司。当时我们感觉很不错,现在变得更好。在Vic Raab的领导下,该公司1972年的业绩非常好。


Insurance Investment Results


We were most fortunate to experience dramatic gains in premium volume from 1969 to 1971
coincidental with virtually record-high interest rates. Large amounts of investable funds were
thus received at a time when they could be put to highly advantageous use. Most of these funds
were placed in tax-exempt bonds and our investment income, which has increased from
$2,025,201 in 1969 to $6,755,242 in 1972, is subject to a low effective tax rate.



Our bond portfolio possesses unusually good call protection, and we will benefit for many years
to come from the high average yield of the present portfolio. The lack of current premium
growth, however, will moderate substantially the growth in investment income during the next
several years.


Banking Operations


Our banking subsidiary, The Illinois Bank and Trust Co. of Rockford, maintained its position of
industry leadership in profitability. After-tax earnings of 2.2% on average deposits in 1972 are
the more remarkable when evaluated against such moderating factors as: (1) a mix of 50% time
deposits heavily weighted toward consumer savings instruments, all paying the maximum rates permitted by law; (2) an unvaryingly strong liquid position and avoidance of money-market

borrowings; (3) a loan policy which has produced a net charge-off ratio in the last two years of
about 5% of that of the average commercial bank. This record is a direct tribute to the leadership
of Gene Abegg and Bob Kline who run a bank where the owners and the depositors can both eat
well and sleep well.



这么优秀的业绩记录要归功Gene AbeggBob Kline,在他们英明的领导下,该银行的所有者和客户都能安心地享受生活。

During 1972, interest paid to depositors was double the amount paid in 1969. We have aggressively sought consumer time deposits, but have not pushed for large “money market”
certificates of deposit although, during the past several years, they have generally been a less costly source of time funds.


During the past year, loans to our customers expanded approximately 38%. This is considerably
more than indicated by the enclosed balance sheet which includes $10.9 million in short-term
commercial paper in the 1971 loan total, but which has no such paper included at the end of 1972.


Our position as “Rockford’s Leading Bank” was enhanced during 1972. Present rate structures, a
decrease in investable funds due to new Federal Reserve collection procedures, and a probable
increase in already substantial non-federal taxes make it unlikely that Illinois National will be
able to increase its earnings during 1973.




On March 15, 1973, Berkshire Hathaway borrowed $20 million at 8% from twenty institutional
lenders. This loan is due March 1, 1993, with principal repayments beginning March 1, 1979.
From the proceeds, $9 million was used to repay our bank loan and the balance is being invested
in insurance subsidiaries. Periodically, we expect that there will be opportunities to achieve
significant expansion in our insurance business and we intend to have the financial resources
available to maximize such opportunities.


Our subsidiaries in banking and insurance have major fiduciary responsibilities to their
customers. In these operations we maintain capital strength far above industry norms, but still
achieve a good level of profitability on such capital. We will continue to adhere to the former
objective and make every effort to continue to maintain the latter.


Warren E. Buffett 沃伦E. 巴菲特

Chairman of the Board 董事会主席

March 16, 1973 1973316