Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Warren Buffett on Acquisitions

"GEICO is a great business. Over the past 20 years, they've done three acquisitions to get into new businesses and they've all been disasters. Why when you have a wonderful business would you want to get into an inferior business? It happens time after time after time. Charlie and I have no such inclinations."

“In making acquisitions, Charlie and I have tended to avoid companies with significant post-retirement liabilities. As a result, Berkshire's present liability and future costs for post-retirement health benefits - though we now have 22,000 employees - are inconsequential. I need to admit, though, that we had a near miss: In 1982 I made a huge mistake in committing to buy a company burdened by extraordinary post-retirement health obligations. Luckily, though, the transaction fell through for reasons beyond our control. Reporting on this episode in the 1982 annual report, I said: "If we were to introduce graphics to this report, illustrating favorable business developments of the past year, two blank pages depicting this blown deal would be the appropriate centerfold." Even so, I wasn't expecting things to get as bad as they did. Another buyer appeared, the business soon went bankrupt and was shut down, and thousands of workers found those bountiful health-care promises to be largely worthless.”

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