If we were to ask the world to name the most successful financial holding company in history, it’s a pretty safe bet Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B) would take the cake.
Why? As Warren Buffett pointed out on the very first page of his 2012 letter to Berkshire shareholders, the company’s per-share book value has grown by an astounding average of 19.7% each year since 1965, good for an overall gain of 586,817% — and, might I add, absolutely destroying the S&P 500’s perfectly respectable 7,433% return over the same period, including dividends.
To put that in perspective, if you had taken $5,000 in 1965 and achieved with it the same annual rate of return as Berkshire, today it would be worth a whopping $29.3 million.
OK, so it’s easy to look back and see how much money you could have made investing with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B) over the past 48 years, but does that mean the Omaha-based conglomerate won’t continue to outperform the broader market indexes going forward? Hardly.
In fact, here are three reasons you can feel great about buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B) today.
1. Look who’s driving this thing
While Buffett’s leadership has undoubtedly left its mark on Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B) over the years, much of the company’s success has stemmed from (in Buffett’s recent words) its “cadre of terrific operating managers,” on whom he relies to run Berkshire’s underlying businesses with very little oversight.
That’s also part of the reason it’s so darned difficult to figure out exactly who Buffett’s eventual successor will be; the possible list of candidates includes a wide range of names from former hedge-fund manager Todd Combs to insurance head Ajit Jain, MidAmerican Energy’s Gregory Abel, Geico’s Tony Nicely, and Tad Montross of General Re.
In any case, Buffett made it clear in his 2011 shareholder letter that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B) has already chosen not only his successor, but also “two superb back-up candidates as well.”
In the same paragraph, Buffett then reminded us that more than 98% of his net worth is in Berkshire stock. He elaborated:
Being so heavily concentrated in one stock defies conventional wisdom. But I’m fine with this arrangement, knowing both the quality and diversity of the businesses we own and the caliber of the people who manage them. With these assets, my successor will enjoy a running start.
Which brings me to the next reason you might consider buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.B).
2. Taking over the world, one business at a time
Of course, great leadership certainly can’t hurt. Buffett himself often says he likes to find businesses capable of performing well even in spite of the occasional bad manager, even half-joking once that The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) could be run by a ham sandwich.