Numbers are staggering. Berkshire Hathaway, the holding chaired by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, earned $44.94 billion last year vs $24.07 billion in 2016, in large part thanks to tax cuts decided by the Trump administration. Operating earnings actually declined to $14.46 billion from 17.58 billion a year ago, mainly because the insurance business lost money. Tax cut contributed $29.11 billion to results, which « derives from a reduction of net deferred income tax liabilities that arose as a result of the reduction in the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21%. »
A more meaningful number for understanding the valuation of BRK is the evolution of the net asset per share or book value per share. Last year, the number grew 23% to $211,750, outperforming S&P 500 by 1.2%. CAGR return for book value per share over 1965-2017 is 19.1% vs 9.9% for S&P 500. Patience, discipline, opportunistic approach, great deal of focus on price and knowing his circle of competence explain such an amazing performance.
The most important part of BRK release of its annual report is Buffett’s letter to shareholder. This year, Buffett covers the following topics :