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Master Series

Buffett and Munger on Options

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In the annual shareholder meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett and Munger took on a series of questions from audience as usual. Although I did not go, I found some of those Q&A both interesting and educational. Thanks to gurufocus, the full transcript is here (WB: Warren Buffett, CM: Charlie Munger).

Q5: Would you use stock options to enter a position in a public co?

WB: If you want to buy or sell a stock, you should buy or sell a stock. We sold puts on Coca-cola once, but usually it is best to just buy stock. Using option technique is an idea where you get to buy a stock cheap. 4 out of 5 times you get it right and one time you may miss the opportunity to buy. We virtually have never used options to enter or exit a position. We have sold long term equity put options described in press report. We don’t get involved in fancy techniques.

CM: If I remember right, a public authority was wondering if they should set up an option exchange market. Warren was alone in the opinion (against it). You wrote a letter saying it wouldn’t do any good to throw out margin rules in this fashion. It doesn’t serve the country. I always thought Warren was totally right. Turning financial markets into gambling markets to enrich the croupiers doesn’t make sense.

Categories
CFA

Bet against Buffett?

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It seems there is lots of confusion about Berkshire (NYSE:BRK.A, BRK.B) options (paper) loss in its Q1 earning report, especially among individual investors. First, let me quote Buffett’s take on those options in his recent annual shareholder letter (link to letters):

“The second category of contracts involves various put options we have sold on four stock indices (the S&P 500 plus three foreign indices). These puts had original terms of either 15 or 20 years and were struck at the market. We have received premiums of $4.5 billion, and we recorded a liability at yearend of $4.6 billion. The puts in these contracts are exercisable only at their expiration dates, which occur between 2019 and 2027, and Berkshire will then need to make a payment only if the index in question is quoted at a level below that existing on the day that the put was written. Again, I believe these contracts, in aggregate, will be profitable and that we will, in addition, receive substantial income from our investment of the premiums we hold during the 15- or 20-year period.

Categories
Investing

Weekend thoughts w/e 050308

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Here is a link to Q&A transcript of Berkshire Hathaway 08 shareholders meeting. I believe this is more comprehensive than CNBC’s live blog I posted earlier.

Berkshire first quarter earning
It went down more than 60% over same period a year ago (PDF). But the number does lie sometime, because this is mostly from paper loss of very long term derivative. One may wonder how come Buffett got into this derivative thing? Isn’t that risky?

Well, in a way we are all invovled in this derivative world. Think auto insurance. When we pay premium for car insurance, it’s like buying a put for our cars and the insurance company is selling the put. If the underlying (car) got demaged, we will be paid by the insurance company for the loss. But most of times our cars are fine, and the insurance companies make money. We all know insurance is Berkshire’s main business and Buffett’s expertise area. My point is Buffett is not new to derivative. He is the financial guru of our time. While his main expertise is buying common stocks and business (in which he emphasize the moat, the durable competitive edge), he also has good understanding and made money on bonds, commodity and foreign currency etc. One interesting example I read from his latest annual letter is he bought Amazon Euro (junk) bond after dot com bubble: he got upsides both from the apperication of Euro and Amazon itself a few years later.

Chinese speaking representative in BoA
We went to the local BoA branch, and to our surprise, one of the financial representative speaks Chinese (Mandarin). He said he had worked in Beijing. One thing I heard is foreigners in Beijing tends to learn Chinese, while those in Shanghai don’t. On a related matter, it appears the interest of learning Chinese is rising among foreigners.

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