In his much-anticipated annual letter to shareholders, Buffett explained that the company's net gain of $65.3 billion in 2017 was only partly due to his employees' efforts. Buffett details in his annual letter the many business activities that led to that gain - including, he writes, investments in American companies, which helped Berkshire's non-insurance businesses realize a $950 million gain in pre-tax income over 2016.
Buffett got a $29 billion boost to net earnings in the fourth quarter from the tax code changes.
Despite sitting on more than $100 billion in cash, Warren Buffett says he was turned off by high asking prices for businesses he considered buying and that kept him from pulling the trigger on any major deals in 2017.
So Berkshire held almost $116 billion in cash and short-term bonds at year end.
"If Wall Street analysts or board members urge that brand of CEO to consider possible acquisitions, it's a bit like telling your ripening teenager to be sure to have a normal sex life", he wrote.
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Turning to investments, Berkshire's Apple holding was up to $28.2B at year-end, second only to Wells Fargo at $29.3B. Berkshire also owns scores of businesses that it has acquired over the years, including auto insurer Geico, ice cream retailer Dairy Queen and BNSF Railway Company.
For all of 2017, Berkshire net earnings rose to $44.9 billion from $24.1 billion the year before, but the bulk of the gains were from the one-time tax benefit. That compares with $6.3 billion, or $2.55 per B share, a year ago.
Buffett predicted the company's stock will fall again by similar large declines in the next 53 years. Berkshire's "A" shares also became the first stock ever to reach a price of $300,000. And sometimes I will make expensive mistakes. To make his point, he showed four major drops in Berkshire's stock going back to 1973 with losses ranging from 37.1% after the crash of 1987 to a 59.1% plunge from 1973 to 1975. The S&P 500 index fund Buffett backed easily outpaced the hedge funds.
All told, the S^and^P 500 had an overall gain of 125.8% while the group of hedge funds - which have never been publicly named - gained just 27%.
Known to fans as "the Oracle of Omaha", Buffett, 87, has suggested USA stocks are probably the best bet over time, encouraging people to make easy choices and stick with them, eschewing high-fee fund managers, for instance.