When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

04 March 2006

Berkshire Hathaway 2005 Annual Report, Chairman's Letter released

Reading most annual reports and "letters from the CEO" is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but I look forward to the reports from Berkshire Hathaway every year.

It might have something to do with the author, Warren Buffett, who is arguably the most successful investor in the world.

It has been said that you can get the equivalent of a pretty good business-school education by reading Warren's "Letters to the Shareholders" every year. I don't think that's far wrong.

So how did they do this year? Better than I'd have thought, considering that reinsurance is a huge part of their business, and they paid out over $3 billion (with a "b") in hurricane claims, $2.5 billion for Katrina alone:

Our gain in net worth during 2005 was $5.6 billion, which increased the per-share book value of both our Class A and Class B stock by 6.4%. Over the last 41 years (that is, since present management took over) book value has grown from $19 to $59,377, a rate of 21.5% compounded annually.

Berkshire had a decent year in 2005. We initiated five acquisitions (two of which have yet to close) and most of our operating subsidiaries prospered. Even our insurance business in its entirety did well, though Hurricane Katrina inflicted record losses on both Berkshire and the industry. We estimate our loss from Katrina at $2.5 billion – and her ugly sisters, Rita and Wilma, cost us an additional $.9 billion.

Berkshire Hathaway material can be found here:

* You'll need the free Adobe Reader (all the letters and Annual Reports are in PDF format), but you already have that, right?

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