Warren Buffett has been quietly making a huge bet on a well-known conglomerate with thousands of employees around the world:
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
While Mr. Buffett has increasingly faced pressure this year to use his nearly $150 billion cash pile to purchase significant stakes in or the entire business of a company, the world’s most famous investor has seemingly made few acquisitions. Among the few deals he did make are Berkshire’s purchase of
Dominion Energy Inc.’s
midstream energy business and its investment of $6 billion in five Japanese companies.
Berkshire also made a $250 million investment in the initial public offering for the data-warehousing company
But none of these 2020 investments have risen to the “elephant” scale, Mr. Buffett’s term for a big buy, relative to the conglomerate’s size and available cash.
In fact, the biggest purchase that the Omaha, Neb., company has made is to purchase its own stock. Berkshire bought $9 billion of its own shares in the third quarter, bringing total buybacks for the first three quarters of 2020 to $15.7 billion. These buybacks mean that Berkshire Hathaway stock is now one of Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest investments ever.
It is a contrast to decades of thinking from Mr. Buffett, who for years refused to buy back Berkshire stock.
Analysts said that one main reason Mr. Buffett has done a buyback is that big acquisitions are a taller order these days. For a corporation of Berkshire’s size and depth, with railroads, food manufacturers, insurers, furniture companies and jewelry retailers among the company’s varied subsidiaries, there are fewer companies that meet Mr. Buffett’s standards.
“Berkshire Hathaway has reached a size and maturity that it’s no longer a growth company; it’s a cash cow,” said Whitney Tilson, founder and chief executive of Empire Financial Research. “To move the needle, he needs to make investment decisions where he’s allocating, I would argue, $10 billion or up.”
Even after the billions in buybacks, Berkshire’s cash and Treasury bonds total $145.7 billion, as of the end of September. Mr. Buffett himself didn’t expect to be sitting on this much cash at this point.
At a 2017 annual meeting, he said, “There’s no way I can come back here three years from now and tell you that we hold $150 billion or so in cash or more, and we think we’re doing something brilliant by doing it.”
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He added: “I would say that history is on our side, but it would be more fun if the phone would ring.”
When the phone has rung since then, the deal wasn’t the right price for Mr. Buffett.
Buybacks are Mr. Buffett’s last option for use of cash after reinvesting in Berkshire and buying other companies, said Stephen Biggar, director of financial-institutions research at Argus Research.
Indeed, Mr. Buffett eschewed buybacks until recent years.
“It’s a bit of a recognition that he doesn’t see any sizable acquisition,” Mr. Biggar said.
One surprise for some investors was that Mr. Buffett didn’t make any deals during the market selloff in March.
At the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. Buffett invested more than $15 billion in blue-chip companies such as
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
General Electric Co.
, when corporate debt was difficult to get.
This time, however, the Federal Reserve’s market interventions stabilized the markets more quickly, stymieing Mr. Buffett’s usual game plan.
“The Fed became a very rapid direct competitor to Berkshire,” Mr. Tilson said, adding that the Fed’s terms for debt were much better than Mr. Buffett’s were during the 2008 recession.
Lawrence Cunningham, a George Washington University law professor, sees the buybacks as a way to weed out fair-weather investors who would be willing to sell.
Mr. Buffett has fostered a culture of patient shareholders who hold their Berkshire investments for decades. A breakdown of that investor culture could cause disruption after Mr. Buffett leaves Berkshire, according to Mr. Cunningham.
“That will invite activists to clamor for breaking up Berkshire,” said Mr. Cunningham, director of the quality-shareholders initiative at the university. “If you do all that, Berkshire will lose its distinctiveness.”
By buying back shares from the short-term investors, Mr. Buffett is in effect narrowing the company’s investor pool to the longer-term investors.
“It’s a very helpful positive for a post-Buffett Berkshire,” said Mr. Cunningham. “You’re going to maintain the quality of the shareholder base.”
U.S. stocks rebound following rout, bond yields dip
U.S. shares rebounded on Thursday after falling for three consecutive days and benchmark Treasury yields dipped, as investors snapped up technology stocks and shrugged off worries about rising prices, for now.
After posting their biggest slump in at least 11 weeks on Wednesday, U.S. shares bounced back as cash-flush investors looked past concerns that accelerating inflation may prompt quicker interest rate hikes, and deployed their funds once more.
So intent were investors on leaving inflation worries aside that financial markets barely responded to Thursday’s data, which showed U.S. producer prices posting their biggest annual gain since 2010 in April.
“It’s rebound Thursday,” said John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington Private Bank, which manages $20 billion. “Given the money on the sidelines, investors are going to be coming back in.”
Still, Augustine said investors should re-deploy their funds in a measured way because “inflation concerns are not going away”.
By midday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had added 1.4%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite narrowed earlier gains to be up 1.3% and 0.9%, respectively.
The MSCI world equity index, which includes 50 countries, also bounced slightly, gaining 0.2%.
U.S. stocks had tumbled earlier this week after data showed U.S. consumer prices unexpectedly jumped by the most in almost 12 years in April.
Some investors now worry that quickening price pressures could lead the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy sooner than expected, and reduce its supply of cheap money that has been propelling financial markets higher.
For now, however, inflation woes took a backseat.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields, which had spiked 7 basis points overnight in the biggest daily rise in two months, edged down by more than 3 basis points to 1.6625% as investors took a breather.
Benchmark two-year Treasury yields also pulled back to 0.1589%.
Against a basket of major currencies, the dollar was steady at 90.727, holding gains eked out on Wednesday when expectations of rate hikes burnished the currency’s appeal.
A firm dollar capped gains in the euro, which edged up 0.1% to $1.20875. [USD/]
The pull-back in Treasury yields helped gold to recoup some of Wednesday’s losses, when the jump in bond yields dampened the allure of non-yielding bullion. Spot gold climbed 0.7% off a one-week low to $1,825.61 per ounce.
A recent rally in oil prices also paused on Thursday as investors turned their attention to the coronavirus crisis in India, and as a key U.S. fuel pipeline resumed operations.
Brent crude slumped 3.5% to $66.93 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude lost 3.8% to $63.53 a barrel.
Among cryptocurrencies, bitcoin, which tumbled 13% overnight when Elon Musk said Tesla would stop accepting it as payment because of its high energy use, fell below $50,000 again on Thursday following reports that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating crypto exchange Binance.
By midday, bitcoin had dropped 2.2% to $48.314.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; additional reporting by Tom Wilson and Marc Jones in London; Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing Nick Macfie, Dan Grebler and Cynthia Osterman)
Dogecoin dropped after Elon Musk calls it a ‘hustle’ on ‘SNL’ show
By Alden Bentley and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) -The value of dogecoin dropped sharply in early U.S. hours on Sunday, after Tesla chief and cryptocurrency supporter Elon Musk called it a ‘hustle’ during his guest-host spot on the “Saturday Night Live” comedy sketch TV show.
Dogecoin was quoted as low as $0.47 on crypto exchange Binance, down 28% from levels around $0.65 before the show.
The billionaire Tesla Inc chief executive hosted the show at 11:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0330 GMT on Sunday).
Cryptocurrency enthusiasts had for days been eager to see what he would say, after his tweets this year turned the once-obscure digital currency into a speculator’s dream.
Asked ‘what is dogecoin’, Musk replied, “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world.”
When a show cast member Michael Che countered, “So, it’s a hustle?”, Musk replied, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.” And laughed.
Musk is the rare business mogul to have been asked to host the venerable comedy TV show. The timing puts Musk back in the spotlight just as Tesla’s stock is losing steam following last year’s monster rally.
The unconventional CEO has posted numerous comments about cryptocurrencies on Twitter and criticized regular old cash for having negative real interest rates.
“Only a fool wouldn’t look elsewhere,” he said in February.
His cryptic tweets “Doge” and “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto” that month kicked off a rally in dogecoin – created as a parody on the more mainstream bitcoin and ethereum.
On Thursday, Musk tweeted: “Cryptocurrency is promising, but please invest with caution!” with a video clip attached in which he said, “it should be considered speculation at this point. And so, you know, don’t don’t go too far in the crypto speculation …”
But he also said, in the video, that cryptocurrency has a “good chance” of becoming what he called “the future currency of the Earth.”
On crypto data tracker CoinGecko.com, dogecoin has jumped more than 800% over the last month and is now the fourth-largest digital currency, with a market capitalization of $73 billion. It hit a record high Thursday above $0.73.
It has overtaken more widely used cryptocurrencies such as litecoin and tether.
Tesla said in February it bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and would soon accept it as a form of payment for its electric cars, a large stride toward mainstream acceptance that sent bitcoin soaring to a record high of nearly $62,000.
Tesla shares closed 1.3% higher at $672.37 on Friday.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Alden Bentley in New York, and Noel Randewich and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco Additional reporting by Joe White and Vidya RanganathanEditing by Matthew Lewis & Simon Cameron-Moore)
Wealthsimple hits $4 billion valuation on funding from Ryan Reynolds, Drake
(Reuters) -Wealthsimple said on Monday it has raised C$750 million ($610.40 million) in its latest funding round, which more than doubled the Canadian fintech company‘s valuation to C$5 billion.
The latest funding round included participation from celebrities Drake, Michael Fox and Ryan Reynolds, according to the company.
The Toronto-based company that has helped make stock trading, peer-to-peer money transfers and tax filing easily accessible, said it will use the amount raised to further expand its market position, product suite and team.
The latest funding round, led by venture capital firms Meritech and Greylock, also includes investments from iNovia, Sagard, TSV and Redpoint.
The funding consists of C$250 million primary fundraising by Wealthsimple and a C$500 million secondary offering by holding company Power Corp of Canada, its largest shareholder.
Wealthsimple said it has seen rapid growth in the past 14 months as Canadians took an interest in stock trading during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, the company said it plans to grow revenue by adding premium features for its clients.
($1 = 1.2288 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta)
Italy lifts COVID quarantine for EU, UK and Israel from Sunday
New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job
WHO urges rich countries to donate shots instead of vaccinating children
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Europe kicks off vaccination programs | All media content | DW | 27.12.2020 – Deutsche Welle
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