Bon Mots From Warren Buffett Letter

The annual letter that Warren Buffett pens to shareholders is looked to as much as for its investment acumen as its homespun aphorisms. Both reveal much about the company and the man himself. Here are a few of the best quotes from the latest offering:

Discussing why Berkshire keeps so much cash on hand:

‘Borrowers then learn that credit is like oxygen. When either is abundant, its presence goes unnoticed. When either is missing, that’s all that is noticed.’

‘Money will always flow toward opportunity, and there is an abundance of that in America.’

‘John Kenneth Galbraith once slyly observed that economists were most economical with ideas: They made the ones learned in graduate school last a lifetime. University finance departments often behave similarly. Witness the tenacity with which almost all clung to the theory of efficient markets throughout the 1970s and 1980s, dismissively calling powerful facts that refuted it ‘anomalies.’ (I always love explanations of that kind: The Flat Earth Society probably views a ship’s circling of the globe as an annoying, but inconsequential, anomaly.)’

On hedge funds:

‘The hedge-fund world has witnessed some terrible behavior by general partners who have received huge payouts on the upside and who then, when bad results occurred, have walked away rich, with their limited partners losing back their earlier gains. Sometimes these same general partners thereafter quickly started another fund so that they could immediately participate in future profits without having to overcome their past losses. Investors who put money with such managers should be labeled patsies, not partners.’

‘One footnote: When we issued a press release about Todd [Comb’s] joining us, a number of commentators pointed out that he was ‘little-known’ and expressed puzzlement that we didn’t seek a ‘big-name.’ I wonder how many of them would have known of Lou (Simpson) in 1979, Ajit (Jain) in 1985, or, for that matter, Charlie (Munger) in 1959. Our goal was to find a 2-year-old Secretariat, not a 10-year-old Seabiscuit. (Whoops-that may not be the smartest metaphor for an 80-year-old CEO to use.)’

Berkshire and the housing/mortgage crisis:

‘Our borrowers get in trouble when they lose their jobs, have health problems, get divorced, etc. The recession has hit them hard. But they want to stay in their homes, and generally they borrowed sensible amounts in relation to their income. In addition, we were keeping the originated mortgages for our own account, which means we were not securitizing or otherwise reselling them. If we were stupid in our lending, we were going to pay the price. That concentrates the mind. If home buyers throughout the country had behaved like our buyers, America would not have had the crisis that it did.’

On home ownership:

‘Home ownership makes sense for most Americans, particularly at today’s lower prices and bargain interest rates. … But a house can be a nightmare if the buyer’s eyes are bigger than his wallet and if a lender–often protected by a government guarantee–facilitates his fantasy. Our country’s social goal should not be to put families into the house of their dreams, but rather to put them into a house they can afford.’

On the worst of the global financial crisis:

‘As one investor said in 2009: ‘This is worse than divorce. I’ve lost half my net worth-and I still have my wife.”

In discussing the bazaar that is the coming annual meeting:

‘Remember: Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness simply hasn’t learned where to shop.’

巴菲特(Warren Buffett)一年一度的致股东信以其精明的投资洞察力和朴素的格言警句而备受期待。二者都让人了解了不少他的公司和他本人的情况。以下是最新的致股东信中的一些妙语:

关于伯克希尔(Berkshire)为何持有大量现金:

借款者这才认识到,信用就像氧气。当它大量存在的时候,没有人会注意到。而失去以后人们才会注意到。

资金总是向着机会流动,而美国有大量的机会。

加尔布雷思(John Kenneth Galbraith)曾经不无狡黠地观察到一个现象,那就是经济学家们对想法是最节省的:他们念研究生时学到的想法能用一辈子。大学的金融系通常表现都差不多。看看上世纪七八十年代,几乎所有人都固执地死抓著有效市场理论不放,轻蔑地将驳倒了这一理论的强劲事实说成是“异常现象”。(我一直都热爱这样的解释:“地球平面说学会”(Flat Earth Society)可能觉得一艘船环游地球让人讨厌,而且不合逻辑、不正常。)

关于对冲基金:

对冲基金界见证了普通合伙人的一些恶劣行为,他们在世道好的时候获得了巨额报酬,然后当业绩糟糕的时候,他们带着自己的财富跑路了,留下有限责任合伙人赔掉之前赚的钱。有时这些普通合伙人还会在不久以后迅速成立另一支基金,以立即参与未来的收益,而无需弥补以往的损失。将钱投给这种经理人的投资者应当被打上懦夫的标签,而不是合伙人。

补充说明:当我们就库姆斯加入公司发布新闻稿时,不少评论人士指出他没什么名气,并对我们没有选一个大名鼎鼎的人表示不解。我很怀疑他们有多少人会知道1979年时的辛普森(Lou Simpson,GEICO保险公司投资经理,已退休──译者注)、1985年时的杰恩(Ajit Jain,负责伯克希尔再保险业务),或者是1959年时的芒格(Charlie Munger,伯克希尔副董事长)。我们的目标是找一位有两年经验的实干者,而不是10年的老马。(呀──对于一位80岁的CEO来说,这可能不是特别明智的比喻。)

关于伯克希尔和楼市/抵押贷款危机:

当借款人遭遇失业、生病、离婚等情况时,他们就有麻烦了。此次衰退让他们深受打击。但他们希望保住自己的家,而且基本上他们借贷的数目相对于收入也是很合理的。除此而外,我们将初始的抵押借款留在自己的帐上,也就是说我们没有将它们证券化或以其他方式转售。如果我们在放贷方面犯傻,就得付出代价。这是我们所关注的。如果全国的房屋买家都像我们的买家一样行事,美国就不会有那样一场危机。

关于自有房屋:

自有房屋对大多数美国人来说是合算的,尤其是以当前较低的价格和划算的利率……但如果购房者“眼大肚子小”,而贷款机构(通常受政府担保的保护)又助长他的白日梦。我们国家的社会目标不应当是让人们住上他们梦想的房子,而是让他们住上自己负担得起的房子。

关于全球金融危机最糟糕的地方

如2009年一名投资者所说:这比离婚还惨。失去了一半的财产净值──老婆却还在。

关于即将举行的年度大会

记住:要是有人说金钱买不到幸福,那他只是还不知道该上哪儿买。

Gregory Corcoran

http://cn.wsj.com/gb/20110227/bog125224.asp?source=article
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