This is my highlights and notes from the Warren Buffett's 1992 letter to the shareholders. You can read the complete letter here. This is a rather a shortened version, containing only text that resonated with me while reading it. I have also grouped various paragraphs together under a common theme, which is highlighted as bold heading.

Take away, Mr. Buffett...

To the Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.:


We've long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to
make fortune tellers look good. Even now, Charlie and I continue
to believe that short-term market forecasts are poison and should
be kept locked up in a safe place, away from children and also
from grown-ups who behave in the market like children. 


We will continue to experience considerable volatility in
our annual results. That's assured by the general volatility of
the stock market, by the concentration of our equity holdings in
just a few companies, and by certain business decisions we have
made, most especially our move to commit large resources to
super-catastrophe insurance. We not only accept this volatility
but welcome it: A tolerance for short-term swings improves our
long-term prospects. 

Long-term Thinking

We do not, however, see this long-term focus as eliminating
the need for us to achieve decent short-term results as well.
After all, we were thinking long-range thoughts five or ten years
ago, and the moves we made then should now be paying off. If
plantings made confidently are repeatedly followed by disappointing
harvests, something is wrong with the farmer. (Or perhaps with the
farm: Investors should understand that for certain companies, and
even for some industries, there simply is no good long-term
strategy.) Just as you should be suspicious of managers who pump
up short-term earnings by accounting maneuvers, asset sales and the
like, so also should you be suspicious of those managers who fail
to deliver for extended periods and blame it on their long-term
focus. (Even Alice, after listening to the Queen lecture her about
"jam tomorrow," finally insisted, "It must come sometimes to jam


Of all our activities at Berkshire, the most exhilarating
for Charlie and me is the acquisition of a business with
excellent economic characteristics and a management that we like,
trust and admire. Such acquisitions are not easy to make but we
look for them constantly. In the search, we adopt the same
attitude one might find appropriate in looking for a spouse: It
pays to be active, interested and open-minded, but it does not
pay to be in a hurry.

In the past, I've observed that many acquisition-hungry
managers were apparently mesmerized by their childhood reading of
the story about the frog-kissing princess. Remembering her
success, they pay dearly for the right to kiss corporate toads,
expecting wondrous transfigurations. Initially, disappointing
results only deepen their desire to round up new toads.
("Fanaticism," said Santyana, "consists of redoubling your effort
when you've forgotten your aim.") Ultimately, even the most
optimistic manager must face reality. Standing knee-deep in
unresponsive toads, he then announces an enormous "restructuring"
charge. In this corporate equivalent of a Head Start program,
the CEO receives the education but the stockholders pay the

In my early days as a manager I, too, dated a few toads.
They were cheap dates - I've never been much of a sport - but my
results matched those of acquirers who courted higher-priced
toads. I kissed and they croaked.

After several failures of this type, I finally remembered
some useful advice I once got from a golf pro (who, like all pros
who have had anything to do with my game, wishes to remain
anonymous). Said the pro: "Practice doesn't make perfect;
practice makes permanent." And thereafter I revised my strategy
and tried to buy good businesses at fair prices rather than fair
businesses at good prices.

Acquisition Strategy

Our equity-investing strategy remains little changed from what
it was fifteen years ago, when we said in the 1977 annual report:
"We select our marketable equity securities in much the way we
would evaluate a business for acquisition in its entirety. We want
the business to be one (a) that we can understand; (b) with
favorable long-term prospects; (c) operated by honest and competent
people; and (d) available at a very attractive price." We have
seen cause to make only one change in this creed: Because of both
market conditions and our size, we now substitute "an attractive
price" for "a very attractive price."

But how, you will ask, does one decide what's "attractive"?
In answering this question, most analysts feel they must choose
between two approaches customarily thought to be in opposition:
"value" and "growth." Indeed, many investment professionals see
any mixing of the two terms as a form of intellectual cross-

We view that as fuzzy thinking (in which, it must be
confessed, I myself engaged some years ago). In our opinion, the
two approaches are joined at the hip: Growth is always a component
in the calculation of value, constituting a variable whose
importance can range from negligible to enormous and whose impact
can be negative as well as positive.

In addition, we think the very term "value investing" is
redundant. What is "investing" if it is not the act of seeking
value at least sufficient to justify the amount paid? Consciously
paying more for a stock than its calculated value - in the hope
that it can soon be sold for a still-higher price - should be
labeled speculation (which is neither illegal, immoral nor - in our
view - financially fattening).

Whether appropriate or not, the term "value investing" is
widely used. Typically, it connotes the purchase of stocks having
attributes such as a low ratio of price to book value, a low price-
earnings ratio, or a high dividend yield. Unfortunately, such
characteristics, even if they appear in combination, are far from
determinative as to whether an investor is indeed buying something
for what it is worth and is therefore truly operating on the
principle of obtaining value in his investments. Correspondingly,
opposite characteristics - a high ratio of price to book value, a
high price-earnings ratio, and a low dividend yield - are in no way
inconsistent with a "value" purchase.


Similarly, business growth, per se, tells us little about
value. It's true that growth often has a positive impact on value,
sometimes one of spectacular proportions. But such an effect is
far from certain. For example, investors have regularly poured
money into the domestic airline business to finance profitless (or
worse) growth. For these investors, it would have been far better
if Orville had failed to get off the ground at Kitty Hawk: The more
the industry has grown, the worse the disaster for owners.

Growth benefits investors only when the business in point can
invest at incremental returns that are enticing - in other words,
only when each dollar used to finance the growth creates over a
dollar of long-term market value. In the case of a low-return
business requiring incremental funds, growth hurts the investor.

In The Theory of Investment Value, written over 50 years ago,
John Burr Williams set forth the equation for value, which we
condense here: The value of any stock, bond or business today is
determined by the cash inflows and outflows - discounted at an
appropriate interest rate - that can be expected to occur during
the remaining life of the asset. Note that the formula is the same
for stocks as for bonds. Even so, there is an important, and
difficult to deal with, difference between the two: A bond has a
coupon and maturity date that define future cash flows; but in the
case of equities, the investment analyst must himself estimate the
future "coupons." Furthermore, the quality of management affects
the bond coupon only rarely - chiefly when management is so inept
or dishonest that payment of interest is suspended. In contrast,
the ability of management can dramatically affect the equity

Though the mathematical calculations required to evaluate
equities are not difficult, an analyst - even one who is
experienced and intelligent - can easily go wrong in estimating
future "coupons." At Berkshire, we attempt to deal with this
problem in two ways. First, we try to stick to businesses we
believe we understand. That means they must be relatively simple
and stable in character. If a business is complex or subject to
constant change, we're not smart enough to predict future cash
flows. Incidentally, that shortcoming doesn't bother us. What
counts for most people in investing is not how much they know, but
rather how realistically they define what they don't know. An
investor needs to do very few things right as long as he or she
avoids big mistakes.

Managers thinking about accounting issues should never forget
one of Abraham Lincoln's favorite riddles: "How many legs does a
dog have if you call his tail a leg?" The answer: "Four, because
calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg." It behooves managers
to remember that Abe's right even if an auditor is willing to
certify that the tail is a leg.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


I recall that one woman, upon being asked to describe the
perfect spouse, specified an archeologist: "The older I get," she
said, "the more he'll be interested in me." She would have liked
my tastes: I treasure those extraordinary Berkshire managers who
are working well past normal retirement age and who concomitantly
are achieving results much superior to those of their younger
competitors. While I understand and empathize with the decision of
Verne and Gladys to retire when the calendar says it's time, theirs
is not a step I wish to encourage. It's hard to teach a new dog
old tricks.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I am a moderate in my views about retirement compared to Rose
Blumkin, better known as Mrs. B. At 99, she continues to work
seven days a week. And about her, I have some particularly good

You will remember that after her family sold 80% of Nebraska
Furniture Mart (NFM) to Berkshire in 1983, Mrs. B continued to be
Chairman and run the carpet operation. In 1989, however, she left
because of a managerial disagreement and opened up her own
operation next door in a large building that she had owned for
several years. In her new business, she ran the carpet section but
leased out other home-furnishings departments.

At the end of last year, Mrs. B decided to sell her building
and land to NFM. She'll continue, however, to run her carpet
business at its current location (no sense slowing down just when
you're hitting full stride). NFM will set up shop alongside her,
in that same building, thereby making a major addition to its
furniture business.

I am delighted that Mrs. B has again linked up with us. Her
business story has no parallel and I have always been a fan of
hers, whether she was a partner or a competitor. But believe me,
partner is better.

This time around, Mrs. B graciously offered to sign a non-
compete agreement - and I, having been incautious on this point
when she was 89, snapped at the deal. Mrs. B belongs in the
Guinness Book of World Records on many counts. Signing a non-
compete at 99 merely adds one more.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Those readers with particularly sharp eyes will note that our
corporate expense fell from $5.6 million in 1991 to $4.2 million in
1992. Perhaps you will think that I have sold our corporate jet,
The Indefensible. Forget it! I find the thought of retiring the
plane even more revolting than the thought of retiring the
Chairman. (In this matter I've demonstrated uncharacteristic
flexibility: For years I argued passionately against corporate
jets. But finally my dogma was run over by my karma.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

On splitting stock price

We hold to the view about stock splits that we set forth in
the 1983 Annual Report. Overall, we believe our owner-related
policies - including the no-split policy - have helped us assemble
a body of shareholders that is the best associated with any widely-
held American corporation. Our shareholders think and behave like
rational long-term owners and view the business much as Charlie and
I do. Consequently, our stock consistently trades in a price range
that is sensibly related to intrinsic value.

Additionally, we believe that our shares turn over far less
actively than do the shares of any other widely-held company. The
frictional costs of trading - which act as a major "tax" on the
owners of many companies - are virtually non-existent at Berkshire.
Obviously a split would not change this situation dramatically.
Nonetheless, there is no way that our shareholder group would be
upgraded by the new shareholders enticed by a split. Instead we
believe that modest degradation would occur.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In general, we continue to have an aversion to debt,
particularly the short-term kind. But we are willing to incur
modest amounts of debt when it is both properly structured and of
significant benefit to shareholders.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Warren E. Buffett
March 1, 1993 Chairman of the Board