Warren Buffett's annual letter awaited by investors
BY JOSH FUNK Associated Press
Friday, March 01, 2013
3/01/13 at 4:25 AM
OMAHA, Neb. - What will life be like without Warren Buffett?
Berkshire Hathaway shareholders may have gotten a glimpse into that future. Most of Berkshire's deals last year didn't directly involve the 82-year-old investor. They originated with a subsidiary of the conglomerate, or with one of the two investment managers Buffett has hired. Either way, Berkshire did well in 2012.
Buffett's annual letter to shareholders will be released Friday afternoon.
The Tulsa World announced Monday that it was being acquired by BH Media Group, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., for an undisclosed price. The deal is expected to close in mid-March.
Jeff Matthews, who wrote "Warren Buffett's Successor: Who It Is and Why It Matters," says last year's deals are comforting because they show how the company might work after Buffett is gone.
"It's very reassuring," Matthews says. "This didn't used to happen."
Of course, Berkshire's recent $23.3 billion deal to buy part of H.J. Heinz highlights what shareholders will miss most about Buffett: his connections and judgment.
Buffett's annual letter is one of the best-read documents in the business world. That's because of his remarkable track record and talent for explaining complicated issues plainly.
The future of the conglomerate Buffett built from a failing textile manufacturer is on shareholders' minds because of the billionaire's age. He was also treated for prostate cancer last year. He says he has no plans to retire.
Some of Berkshire's biggest deals in dollars last year include:
Terms of several other deals weren't disclosed, but analysts say the acquisitions of party supplier Oriental Trading Co. and Prudential's real estate network are unlikely to give a significant boost to Berkshire by themselves.
- A $1.5 billion purchase of mortgage loans from Residential Capital and a $1.2 billion repurchase of Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares.
- A deal to cover up to $4 billion in insurance losses for Cigna Corp. in exchange for a $2.2 billion premium.
- Berkshire's utility division, MidAmerican Energy, agreeing to buy 579 megawatts of solar power for between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.
The only deals that likely originated with Buffett are the Berkshire share repurchase, the Oriental Trading acquisition and possibly the Cigna deal. The rest began elsewhere, although Buffett would have signed off on them.
After he's gone, Berkshire plans to split Buffett's job into three roles: CEO, chairman and a head of investment management.
Original Print Headline: Buffett's annual letter awaited
Warren Buffett: His track record and talent for straight talk have earned him respect.