Author Topic: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway  (Read 1968 times)

DooDiligence

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
  • ♪ 🎶 ♫ ♪ 🎶 ♫
11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« on: December 08, 2018, 07:54:45 AM »
In the interest of counterbalancing BRK bullishness and examining potential downside to the individual businesses,
the following article presents some common themes, a few of which parallel WEB's occasional gloomy warnings
about, for example, the insurance businesses, which have proven to be overly pessimistic (for now).

https://www.thestreet.com/story/10406915/1/kass-katch-11-reasons-to-short-berkshire.html

Some items, such as "what happens in the event of WEB's death?", may have implications beyond a potential mass
exodus of shareholders and any subsequent price drop. One implication being that the "trust factor", which includes
the trust he's placed in individual CEO's, and "trust" which is the cornerstone of insurance operations, could begin
to erode.

https://www.volarisgroup.com/blog/article/trust-the-building-block-to-berkshire-hathaways-success

The following article is entitled "Collateral Damage" and discusses the vagaries of contract disputes, which is one
area I'd think could seriously damage Berkshire <IF> they were to start mis-pricing insurance to aggressively
gain volume.

https://www.forbes.com/forbes/2001/1015/058.html

How would we know, in advance, if mis-pricing issues were creeping in?

How strong is the culture of trust within the organization & does it exist within the individual businesses?

I'm not asking for ideas that would put short term hurt on the stock price, but those which would harm
the individual businesses in such a way as to inflict serious and lasting damage to the entire company.

--

[edit: FWIW, I am NOT suggesting, as the title would implicate, shorting BRK. That's just crazy talk, right?]
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 08:05:25 AM by DooDiligence »
Healthcare 40.8% - ABC BBH CVS DVA EW NVO // BRK.B - 14.7% // Media & Communication 12.7% - CHTR CMCSA DIS

Drinkers & Smokers 13.5% - ABEV MO // Auto's & Oil 13.8% - CLB GPC VDE // Tech & Comms 4.4% - AAPL SFTBY

%'s held @ MV 11/23/2018 minus $$$ 4 skool

ready 2 wait

https://twitter.com/tunawish


Cigarbutt

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1272
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2018, 01:39:31 PM »
^Somehow I suspect your post may elicit similar visceral reactions as if you'd walk into an NRA convention with a T-shirt saying "I hate guns". :)

Not suggesting to short BRK but, in terms of a yardstick, anchor holding, or a contrarian or even relative hedge, going forward, it is possible that BRK relatively disappoints.
Another consideration is that BRK has pretty much made it to the "too-big-to-fail" category, which should provide a floor if the sky falls.

See following link with a focus on:
-graph showing declining Berkshire's alpha
-graph showing a higher level of correlation between BRK and the S&P since the last shake-up
https://realinvestmentadvice.com/the-myths-of-stocks-for-the-long-run-part-vi/

John Hjorth

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2080
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2018, 04:06:24 PM »
... [edit: FWIW, I am NOT suggesting, as the title would implicate, shorting BRK. That's just crazy talk, right?]

Jeff,

Please have trust in yourself. To me this [for my part] actually has nothing to do with your position in Berkshire at all. [I'm sorry for derailing the topic here, if I did that - still not sure about it.] Actually, I have problems coming up with a more demanding and lonely side gig than being a value based stock picker.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 04:09:56 PM by John Hjorth »
”In the race of excellence … there is no finish line.”
-HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai

mjm

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2018, 04:48:03 PM »
on reading this i was reminded of buffett's tongue in cheek joke that upon dying he just hoped that BRK did not jump up too high on the news.

DooDiligence

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
  • ♪ 🎶 ♫ ♪ 🎶 ♫
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2018, 04:59:31 PM »
My intention is not to start a riot here.

I've been trying to look at everything I own & come up with events that could realistically cause harm to the businesses.

Most everyone here on COBF is intellectually honest & willing to admit mistakes & find solutions to make them good.

That's probably why we're all so attracted to Buffet, Munger & Berkshire.

I still have more faith in Berkshire than any other investment & don't hesitate to recommend it to family & friends.

I just wanted to provoke thought.

Maybe it was a bad idea.
Healthcare 40.8% - ABC BBH CVS DVA EW NVO // BRK.B - 14.7% // Media & Communication 12.7% - CHTR CMCSA DIS

Drinkers & Smokers 13.5% - ABEV MO // Auto's & Oil 13.8% - CLB GPC VDE // Tech & Comms 4.4% - AAPL SFTBY

%'s held @ MV 11/23/2018 minus $$$ 4 skool

ready 2 wait

https://twitter.com/tunawish

rb

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2753
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2018, 08:47:32 PM »
OK, that article is dated March 10, 2008. With the benefit of hindsight I'd say that it did not age well. It also doesn't make sense. In my opinion the article doesn't even make a case to short BRK. A reason not to own it, maybe, but not a short. The only bit that actually carried some weight was valuation. In March 2008 BRK was trading at 1.75 book. That was definitely pricey and in my view overvalued somewhere in the range of 15-25%. But then in March 2008 pretty much everything was overvalued.

Those that were worried about growth back then consider this. In the 10 years that followed Berkshire grew itself by 150%. Assets in q1 2008 were 281 Bn. In q1 2018 they were 703 Bn. And they did that in a very conservative way. That's impressive! Even more impressive was GEICO. Q1 2008 premiums - 3 Bn. Q1 2018 Premiums - 8 Bn 167% growth.

When it comes to Berkshire, I don't even mind if the company somewhat under-performs the S&P. When you're investing you're getting paid to take risk. In my view Berkshire's risk is below the S&P risk. If it somewhat over-performs the S&P I'm getting paid handsomely for the risk I'm taking. But then I'm probably not as greedy as some on you.

xo 1

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 43
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2018, 03:25:59 AM »
OK, that article is dated March 10, 2008. With the benefit of hindsight I'd say that it did not age well. It also doesn't make sense. In my opinion the article doesn't even make a case to short BRK. A reason not to own it, maybe, but not a short. The only bit that actually carried some weight was valuation. In March 2008 BRK was trading at 1.75 book. That was definitely pricey and in my view overvalued somewhere in the range of 15-25%. But then in March 2008 pretty much everything was overvalued.

Those that were worried about growth back then consider this. In the 10 years that followed Berkshire grew itself by 150%. Assets in q1 2008 were 281 Bn. In q1 2018 they were 703 Bn. And they did that in a very conservative way. That's impressive! Even more impressive was GEICO. Q1 2008 premiums - 3 Bn. Q1 2018 Premiums - 8 Bn 167% growth.

When it comes to Berkshire, I don't even mind if the company somewhat under-performs the S&P. When you're investing you're getting paid to take risk. In my view Berkshire's risk is below the S&P risk. If it somewhat over-performs the S&P I'm getting paid handsomely for the risk I'm taking. But then I'm probably not as greedy as some on you.
Nice historical perspective.  Thanks for doing the work.

DooDiligence

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
  • ♪ 🎶 ♫ ♪ 🎶 ♫
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2018, 06:32:17 AM »
OK, that article is dated March 10, 2008. With the benefit of hindsight I'd say that it did not age well. It also doesn't make sense. In my opinion the article doesn't even make a case to short BRK. A reason not to own it, maybe, but not a short. The only bit that actually carried some weight was valuation. In March 2008 BRK was trading at 1.75 book. That was definitely pricey and in my view overvalued somewhere in the range of 15-25%. But then in March 2008 pretty much everything was overvalued.

Those that were worried about growth back then consider this. In the 10 years that followed Berkshire grew itself by 150%. Assets in q1 2008 were 281 Bn. In q1 2018 they were 703 Bn. And they did that in a very conservative way. That's impressive! Even more impressive was GEICO. Q1 2008 premiums - 3 Bn. Q1 2018 Premiums - 8 Bn 167% growth.

When it comes to Berkshire, I don't even mind if the company somewhat under-performs the S&P. When you're investing you're getting paid to take risk. In my view Berkshire's risk is below the S&P risk. If it somewhat over-performs the S&P I'm getting paid handsomely for the risk I'm taking. But then I'm probably not as greedy as some on you.

Your 1st sentence mirrors my exact thought that the article "did not age well".
The idea was to start a conversation which would expand from there.

WEB himself has remarked in nearly every shareholder letter that the future prospects of insurance are gloomy & yet...

As I've said in other threads, I am primarily interested in preserving the future value of what I own & am not looking for big gains.
To this end, I am trying to follow Howard Marks comments regarding "protection from downside".

I think it's delusional, at best, to look at any company & imagine what COULD happen to make the price of the stock go up (happens a lot on Yahoo finance boards but not here) & although it may be equally insane to believe that I can imagine potential disasters, I believe that it's far more constructive to attempt to do so.

The difference between a sell side & a buy side analyst, no?

Keep in mind that this goes far to the opposite end of my normal, every day, optimistic outlook, which is nearly indomitable.

---

in·dom·i·ta·ble
/inˈdämədəb(ə)l/
adjective

impossible to subdue or defeat.
"a person of indomitable spirit"
Synonyms: invincible, unconquerable, unbeatable, unassailable, invulnerable, unshakable, unsinkable.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2018, 06:34:15 AM by DooDiligence »
Healthcare 40.8% - ABC BBH CVS DVA EW NVO // BRK.B - 14.7% // Media & Communication 12.7% - CHTR CMCSA DIS

Drinkers & Smokers 13.5% - ABEV MO // Auto's & Oil 13.8% - CLB GPC VDE // Tech & Comms 4.4% - AAPL SFTBY

%'s held @ MV 11/23/2018 minus $$$ 4 skool

ready 2 wait

https://twitter.com/tunawish

cubsfan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 934
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2018, 06:41:50 AM »
Doug Kass loved to put these shorts out on BRK when it was a little pricey - always got the headlines and
scalped a few bucks here and there.  Even got him an invitation to be the featured short bear at the
Berkshire meeting on the panel with Becky Quick, etc - where he shamelessly promoted himself in front of 40,000 attendees.


longinvestor

  • Lifetime Member
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1633
  • Never interrupt compounding unnecessarily -Munger
Re: 11 Reasons to Short Berkshire Hathaway
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2018, 07:45:04 AM »
Doug Kass loved to put these shorts out on BRK when it was a little pricey - always got the headlines and
scalped a few bucks here and there.  Even got him an invitation to be the featured short bear at the
Berkshire meeting on the panel with Becky Quick, etc - where he shamelessly promoted himself in front of 40,000 attendees.
He didn’t get invited back after that. I sense that Greg Warren of Morningstar is on the Dias as somewhat of a bear(I feel that way about him). He gets into a lot of detail with his six allotted questions but imo ends up in the “precisely wrong “ category. I am also looking for someone who can ask the tough longer term questions that will get Buffett talking about things he would rather not.