Warren Buffett releases annual letter to shareholders

Warren Buffett releases annual letter to shareholders

In his much-anticipated annual letter to shareholders, Buffett explained that the company's net gain of $65.3 billion in 2017 was only partly due to his employees' efforts.

"Upon the enactment of the [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017], we recorded a reduction in our deferred income tax liabilities of approximately $35.6 billion for the effect of the aforementioned change in the USA statutory income tax rate".

The company also saw its war chest swell: it had $116 billion in cash and US Treasury bills as of the end of 2017, a financial manna that Buffett wants to use to make significant new acquisitions.

Mr Buffett bemoaned frothy asset prices for curtailing Berkshire's recent acquisition activity.

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"If Wall Street analysts or board members urge that brand of CEO to consider possible acquisitions, it's a bit like telling your ripening teenager to be sure to have a normal sex life", he wrote.

Buffett himself earlier this year expressed some reservation about the tax-code rewrite cobbled together by federal lawmakers.

Turning to investments, Berkshire's Apple holding was up to $28.2B at year-end, second only to Wells Fargo at $29.3B.

Last month, he gave two top executives Ajit Jain and Gregory Abel greater oversight of Berkshire's operating businesses, cementing their status as the front runners to succeed Buffett atop the conglomerate. Over the past 53 years, Berkshire has grown its per-share book value at a 19.1% rate compounded annually.

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The company's full-year earnings shot up 87 per cent to $44.9bn, though Buffett admitted only $36bn came from Berkshire's operations. Berkshire's "A" shares also became the first stock ever to reach a price of $300,000. As a result, we recorded an income tax benefit of approximately $29.6 billion and we increased regulatory liabilities of our regulated utility subsidiaries by approximately $6.0 billion for the portion of the deferred income tax liability reduction that we will be required to, effectively, refund to customers in the rate setting process.

"In America, equity investors have the wind at their back", he said.

In 2014, Buffett said he plans to put 90 percent of the money he leaves to his wife, Astrid, when he dies into an S&P 500 index fund, and 10 percent in government bonds. When the wager concluded on December 31, the index fund had won easily.

It's brutal - for the hedge funds.

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