Warren Buffett: Berkshire’s boom days may be over; company approaches $1 trillion in value

Eva Rothenberg, CNN | 2/26/2024, 11:29 a.m.
Berkshire Hathaway neared a $1 trillion market valuation Monday after a record-breaking year, but CEO Warren Buffett warned in his …
Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images via CNN Newsourc

Berkshire Hathaway neared a $1 trillion market valuation Monday after a record-breaking year, but CEO Warren Buffett warned in his annual letter to investors that more skyrocketing performances are likely a thing of the past.

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) saw its shares jump nearly 2%, to $429, on Monday morning after closing with a market cap of $905 billion on Friday. Only a handful of companies worldwide has ever reached the $1 trillion milestone, among them tech giants Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate reported a record cash hoard Saturday in its fourth-quarter earnings. Berkshire has about $167.6 billion in cash and equivalents, breaking last quarter’s record-high $157.2 billion. For the year, operating earnings rose to $37.3 billion, after setting a record of $30.8 billion in 2022.

But in Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders over the weekend, the famed investor and CEO said he sought to manage expectations. He emphasized that longevity and constancy are at the core of the company’s ethos, adding that seismic deals and skyrocketing performance are likely a thing of the past.

“Berkshire should do a bit better than the average American corporation and, more important, should also operate with materially less risk of permanent loss of capital,” he wrote. “Anything beyond ‘slightly better,’ though, is wishful thinking.”

The Oracle of Omaha noted a lack of opportunity for Berkshire Hathaway to invest in or acquire companies that would make a strong financial impression on the conglomerate’s performance.

That is especially true for businesses outside the United States, Buffett said, noting that internationally, “there are essentially no candidates that are meaningful options for capital deployment at Berkshire.”

In 2023, Berkshire increased its investment in five major Japanese companies: Itochu, Marubeni, Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Sumitomo. The companies span a wide range of industries, including textile production, mining, electricity and automotive manufacturing.

Since the interest in these companies is “more broad” than Berkshire’s, Buffett said there “is the possibility that our investment may lead to opportunities for us to partner around the world with (these) five large, well-managed and well-respected companies.”

But due to Berkshire’s size, buying shares to build a large position in these companies is a long-term undertaking that requires patience, Buffett said.

“The process is like turning a battleship,” he wrote.