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Cash rich corporate America


locutusoftexas
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Fellow Board Members,

 

Recently I read that American corporations hold a record amount of cash, yet are doing relatively little with it. Further, the dividend yield is only around 1.9% for the S&P 500, about the same as the 5-year Treasury. This is an important indicator that small shareholders actually are not "part owners" of businesses, since they are not getting paid for the risk that they are taking in holding stocks. When Leucadia National had so much cash that the management could not find suitable investments for it, a significant portion was returned to shareholders and was treated as a long-term capital gain. US corporations should do the same, sending about half of their cash back to shareholders.

 

Sadly, this goes for none other than Uncle Warren, who is also reported recently to be holding a large amount of cash (I would hope minus unearned premiums). I have been a short-term shareholder in Berkshire (12 years) and am just as powerless as for shareholders of other companies. You might remind me that I can sell and accept the long-term capital gain. That would be true. However, as we have seen capital gains can evaporate very quickly. Further, a shareholder, as an owner, should be paid a dividend and not be forced to rely on a promise of outstanding and trustworthy management. Nor should the part-owner be forced to sell his portion of the business just to be paid for his risk. The management should manage the risk rather than foisting this task on the shareholders. That is part of the management's job.

 

Sorry that it sounds like I am complaining about Warren. He is of course unique and truly outstanding. However, even he should revisit his assumptions about what it means to be a part-owner. Fair is fair.

 

Hope everyone is making a lot of money.

Tex

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Myth,

 

You are of course correct. I just think that Warren needs to review critically his concept of part-ownership by his shareholders. For example, his claims to the contrary, he will not live forever. Further, he is unique, so that makes him virtually irreplaceable. Berkshire's price will go down non-negligibly when he passes away. Hence my risk of ownership goes up significantly each year. I am happy to accept the capital gain; however, I would rather that Berkshire pay me my share of the earnings every year without my having to sell part or all of my participation in a great business or later on, a very good business.  True owners should have that option.

 

Best regards,

Tex

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> would rather that Berkshire pay me my share of the earnings every year without my having to sell part or all of my participation in a great business or later on, a very good business.  True owners should have that option.

 

Why not ask Biglari to do that  ;D. With BRK, it is highly unlikely there will be a dividend till it regains its AAA rating and WEB/Munger can't find any acquisitions. I am fine with not having a dividend. Even his family (Doris) didnt get a dividend and ended up bankrupt because of some poor trading strategy! Berkshire wouldnt have been berkshire if everyone could do whatever they wanted with their part ownership.

 

cheers!

 

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Recently I read that American corporations hold a record amount of cash, yet are doing relatively little with it.

 

Many of the multinationals have a problem with stranded cash.  That is, cash in their overseas operations that would be taxed heavily if it were moved into the United States.  Thus it tends to be used at boosting operations overseas.  I love the smell of unintended consequences in the morning.  >:(

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Sadly, this goes for none other than Uncle Warren, who is also reported recently to be holding a large amount of cash (I would hope minus unearned premiums).

 

I would think that any criticism of Buffett hoarding cash would be muted after his excellent capital deployment during/around the 2008 crisis (GE, GS, BNI, Wrigley, Swiss Re, etc)...

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Sadly, this goes for none other than Uncle Warren, who is also reported recently to be holding a large amount of cash (I would hope minus unearned premiums).

 

I would think that any criticism of Buffett hoarding cash would be muted after his excellent capital deployment during/around the 2008 crisis (GE, GS, BNI, Wrigley, Swiss Re, etc)...

 

Aw but people dont see the correlation. They want excess cash to be paid out and huge capital gains from Mr. Market. Interesting times.

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Gokou - I agree with you 100%.  Where would all the other companies have been without government interference?  GS - dead.  Citi - dead.  GE - dead.  BRK didn't need it.  It was a supplier of capital.

 

Honest to christ, people are so f'ing impatient.  I am really puzzled.  Warren piles cash over the last decade b/c he didn't see many great deals.  Maybe he is looking for 10 baggers.  The crash happens and he allocates what he feels appropriate. 

 

I don't hear in hindsight why aren't other corporations adopting the shadow banking model.  In fact, Lloyd (null and void - get the movie reference?) gets a big raise.  And Buffett again becomes criticized. 

 

I think the bigger focus should be on the capital allocation decisions Buffett makes as opposed to the ones he doesn't. 

 

A dividend?  Come on.  Share buyback.  Get real.  Not on his watch.  And if it happens, well, I guess I'll say I was wrong.

 

 

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One of the reasons I purchased BRK is so that Warren could manage my cash (or the portion of BRK's cash that my ownership represents).

 

I don't want him to give it back to me now and I certainly do not want to pay a tax now to get my money back.

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Not to belabor the points, but, under the current dividend policy, (1) the day that Warren dies or becomes too ill to manage the company is the day that shareholders will see their holdings in Berkshire decline by 20%, and (2) due to other factors, capital gains can evaporate quickly with no guarantee that they will recover. If both of these situations coincide while Berkshire has continued the current dividend policy, then shareholders will suffer an even greater loss. On the other hand, with a corporate policy of returning some cash to shareholders, the losses would likely be far less in this scenario because the underlying value could be realizable no matter what happens to the price of the shares.  (Note that dividends would be paid from cash excluding unearned premiums and debt.)

 

As many have said, however, a change of dividend policy is highly unlikely. Gee, I think that I just talked myself into taking profits in Berkshire!

 

Good luck,

Tex

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The funny thing is that the stock shouldnt go down.  He doesnt manage any businesses per se.

 

I think he will make a couple more big deals... I have always thought mars and more utilities.  Someone on this board mentioned Munich re...great thinking.

 

The stock will go down at his death but there is too much good in this company.

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