The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart
If you look at any ranking of the world’s richest people, you will notice that most of the names derive their wealth from building individual, successful companies.
Topping today’s rich list is Jeff Bezos, who started Amazon in 1994. Further down, you see familiar names like Bill Gates (Microsoft), Amancio Ortega (Zara), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and so on.
Warren Buffett, who appears third on such a list, is completely unique in this sense. Through his holding company Berkshire Hathaway, he has bought, sold, or invested in hundreds of companies over the years, and their industries are all over the map. These investments include consumer goods companies like Coca-Cola, daily national newspapers like The Washington Post, and insurance companies like GEICO.
Buffett currently owns 36.8% of Berkshire – and at the time of publishing, Berkshire Hathaway is worth an impressive $480 billion, employing 377,000 people across many different industries.
Although Berkshire Hathaway is today associated with Buffett and his long-time partner Charlie Munger, the origins of the company actually stem from 1839.
The original company was a textile mill in Rhode Island, and by 1948 Berkshire employed 11,000 people and brought in $29.5 million in revenue (about $300 million in today’s dollars).
After Berkshire’s stock began to decline in the late 1950s, Buffett saw value in the company and started accumulating shares. By 1964, Buffett wanted out, and the company’s CEO Seabury Stanton tendered an offer to buy Buffett’s shares for $11.37, which was $0.13 less than he had promised.
This made Buffett mad, and instead of taking the offer, he opted to buy more shares. Eventually he took control of the company and fired Stanton.
The company was his, and the rest is history.
In the long-running contest of Warren Buffett vs. the market, the scoreboard isn’t even close:
|Berkshire Hathaway||S&P 500|
|Total gain (1964-2017)||2,404,748%||15,508%|
|Compound annualized gain||20.9%||9.9%|
Source: BH Annual Report. BH’s market value is after-tax, and S&P 500 is pre-tax, including dividends.
If you’re wondering how Warren Buffett developed such an impressive investing record, it’s worth seeing Part 2 of this series: Inside Buffett’s Brain.
Revenue by Business Segments
The Warren Buffett Empire is diverse, and made up of hundreds of companies in different industries.
However, segmenting by revenue does give an idea of how Berkshire makes its money:
|Revenue (Billions, 2017)||% of Total|
|Berkshire Hathaway Energy||$18.9||8%|
|Service and Retailing||$26.3||11%|
The Berkshire Portfolio
Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio can be broken down into two categories: the companies it owns outright (or majority stakes in), and the companies it owns significant investments in.
Companies Owned by Berkshire
Berkshire Hathaway owns well-known brands ranging from Dairy Queen to Duracell. Here are all those companies listed by number of employees:
|Manufacturing||Fruit of the Loom||26,219|
|Manufacturing||The Marmon Group||12,763|
|Railroad and Utilities||BNSF Railways||41,000|
|Railroad and Utilities||Berkshire Hathaway Energy||22,773|
|Service and Retailing||McLane Company||23,859|
|Service and Retailing||NetJets||6,314|
|Service and Retailing||BH Media Group||3,719|
|Service and Retailing||See’s Candies||2,439|
|Service and Retailing||Helzberg Diamonds||2,252|
|Service and Retailing||The Buffalo News||618|
|Service and Retailing||Business Wire||486|
|Service and Retailing||Dairy Queen||464|
|n/a||Berkshire Hathaway Corporate Office||26|
Importantly, you’ll notice that there are only 26 employees in Berkshire Hathaway’s corporate office – that’s because Buffett is adamant that portfolio companies need to be well-managed in their own right, and he thinks this decentralization is a key to his success.
Here are the companies Berkshire Hathaway has significant investments in – the whole portfolio is worth nearly $200 billion:
|Company||Value (Billions)||% of Portfolio|
|Bank of America||20.0||10.5%|
|Bank of NY Mellon||3.3||1.7%|
The portfolio is pretty much a microcosm of the American economy: it features banks, airlines, consumer goods companies, and even tech behemoths like Apple.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Buffett doesn’t stop there – his company also owns 80 auto dealerships, the second-largest real estate broker in the country (HomeServices of America), and even 32 daily newspapers.
Deals that Made the Empire
The Warren Buffett Empire wouldn’t exist without Buffett being involved in some of most famous deals in business history. Below are some of the big names Buffett has been involved with.
Buffett helped finance the Capital Cities takeover of ABC – at the time, the largest non-oil merger in history. Eventually, CapCities/ABC was sold to Disney.
Before ESPN was the household name it is today, Buffett owned a big chunk of it as an upstart sports brand in 1985, as a part of the CapCities/ABC deal.
Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital led a takeover of Heinz in 2013. This gave Buffett control of trusted brands like HP Sauce, Lea & Perrins, as well as the namesake brand.
Buffett delivered the newspaper as a kid, but later in his life would be the largest outside shareholder of the famous paper.
Buffett helped lead a desperate shakeup at one of Wall Street’s most famous investment banks.
After almost losing all the $358 million he had invested, Buffett called buying preferred shares in the airline one of his biggest mistakes.
Buffett started buying shares in the last 1980s, and became Gillette’s biggest shareholder. Buffett made $4.4 billion in paper profit when it sold the company to Proctor & Gamble.
Structured Notes: The Secret to Improving Your Risk/Return Profile?
Structured notes provide some downside protection, while allowing investors to participate in market upswings. Learn all about them in this infographic.
Structured Notes: The Secret to Improving Your Risk/Return Profile?
Structured notes are gaining momentum in the market, with a whopping $2 trillion in assets under management (AUM) globally.
So why haven’t more investors heard of them?
Traditionally, structured notes had a $1 million minimum investment. They were only available to high-net-worth or institutional investors—but they are now becoming more accessible.
Today’s infographic from Halo Investing explains what structured notes are, outlines the two main types, and demonstrates how to implement them in a portfolio.
What is a Structured Note?
A structured note is a hybrid security, where approximately 80% is a bond component and 20% is an embedded derivative.
Structured notes are issued by major financial institutions. Since they are the liability of the issuer, it is critical that the investor is comfortable with the issuer—as with any bond purchase.
Almost all structured notes have four simple parameters.
- Maturity – The term typically falls within 3 to 5 years.
- Payoff – The amount the investor receives at maturity.
- Underlying asset – The note’s performance is linked to the price return (excluding dividends) of an asset, such as stocks, ETFs, or foreign currencies.
- Protection – The level of protection the investor receives if the underlying asset loses value.
As long as the underlying asset does not fall lower than the protection amount at maturity, the investor will receive their initial investment back in full.
This is the primary draw of structured notes: they provide a level of downside protection, while still allowing investors to participate in market upswings.
Types of Structured Notes
There are a variety of structured notes, providing investors with diverse options and a range of risk/return profiles. Structured notes generally fall into one of two broad categories: growth notes and income notes.
Investors receive a percentage—referred to as the participation rate—of the underlying asset’s price appreciation.
For example, a growth note has the following terms:
- Maturity: 5 years
- Participation rate: 117%
- Underlying asset: S&P 500 index
- Principal protection: 30%
Here’s what the payoff would look like in 4 different scenarios:
|S&P 500 return||Growth Note Return|
The S&P 500 can return a loss of up to 30%, the principal protection level in this example, before the note starts to lose value.
Over an income note’s life, investors receive a fixed payment known as a coupon. Income notes do not participate in the upside returns the way a growth note does—but they may generate a higher income stream than a standard debt security or dividend-paying stock.
This is because protection is offered for both the principal and the coupon payments. For example, say a note’s underlying asset is the S&P 500, and it pays an 8% coupon with 30% principal protection. If the S&P 500 trades sideways all year—sometimes slightly negative or positive—the note will still pay its 8% coupon due to the protection.
Income notes have another big advantage: their yields can spike in tumultuous markets, as was demonstrated during the market volatility near the end of 2018.
Why did this spike occur? Banks construct the derivative piece of an income note by selling options*, which are more expensive in volatile markets. Banks then collect these higher premiums, creating larger coupons inside the structured note.
Investors can diversify their return profile by using a combination of growth and income notes.
*Option contracts offer the buyer the opportunity to either buy or sell the underlying asset at a stated price within a specific timeframe. Unlike futures, the buyer is not forced to exercise the contract if they choose not to.
Structured notes are powerful tools that can accomplish almost any investment goal, and investors commonly use them as a core portfolio component.
- Step 1: Select a portfolio asset class where downside protection is desired.
- Step 2: Reallocate a portion of the asset class to a structured note
- Step 3: Improve risk/reward performance.
The asset class will demonstrate an enhanced return profile, with less downside risk.
A Global Market
While relatively small in the Americas, the structured notes market is growing on a global scale:
|Region||AUM (2019 Q2)|
In the first half of 2019, assets under management in the Americas was up by 4%. It’s clear the asset class presents enormous untapped potential—and investors are taking notice.
Lowering Barriers Through Technology
Technology is becoming more ingrained in wealth management—empowering investors to access structured notes more easily through efficient trading.
The market is already becoming more accessible. By 31 October 2019, the average transaction size had decreased by almost $500,000 over the year prior.
Technology also offers other benefits for investors:
- Improved analytics
- Investment education
- Risk information
- Increased competition = lower fees
- Improved secondary liquidity
As more investors take advantage of this asset class, they may be able to improve their return potential while limiting their risk.
The History of Interest Rates Over 670 Years
Interest rates sit near generational lows — is this the new normal, or has it been the trend all along? We show a history of interest rates in this graphic.
The History of Interest Rates Over 670 Years
Today, we live in a low-interest-rate environment, where the cost of borrowing for governments and institutions is lower than the historical average. It is easy to see that interest rates are at generational lows, but did you know that they are also at 670-year lows?
This week’s chart outlines the interest rates attached to loans dating back to the 1350s. Take a look at the diminishing history of the cost of debt—money has never been cheaper for governments to borrow than it is today.
The Birth of an Investing Class
Trade brought many good ideas to Europe, while helping spur the Renaissance and the development of the money economy.
Key European ports and trading nations, such as the Republic of Genoa or the Netherlands during the Renaissance period, help provide a good indication of the cost of borrowing in the early history of interest rates.
The Republic of Genoa: 4-5 year Lending Rate
Genoa became a junior associate of the Spanish Empire, with Genovese bankers financing many of the Spanish crown’s foreign endeavors.
Genovese bankers provided the Spanish royal family with credit and regular income. The Spanish crown also converted unreliable shipments of New World silver into capital for further ventures through bankers in Genoa.
Dutch Perpetual Bonds
A perpetual bond is a bond with no maturity date. Investors can treat this type of bond as an equity, not as debt. Issuers pay a coupon on perpetual bonds forever, and do not have to redeem the principal—much like the dividend from a blue-chip company.
By 1640, there was so much confidence in Holland’s public debt, that it made the refinancing of outstanding debt with a much lower interest rate of 5% possible.
Dutch provincial and municipal borrowers issued three types of debt:
- Promissory notes (Obligatiën): Short-term debt, in the form of bearer bonds, that was readily negotiable
- Redeemable bonds (Losrenten): Paid an annual interest to the holder, whose name appeared in a public-debt ledger until the loan was paid off
- Life annuities (Lijfrenten): Paid interest during the life of the buyer, where death cancels the principal
Unlike other countries where private bankers issued public debt, Holland dealt directly with prospective bondholders. They issued many bonds of small coupons that attracted small savers, like craftsmen and often women.
Rule Britannia: British Consols
In 1752, the British government converted all its outstanding debt into one bond, the Consolidated 3.5% Annuities, in order to reduce the interest rate it paid. Five years later, the annual interest rate on the stock dropped to 3%, adjusting the stock as Consolidated 3% Annuities.
The coupon rate remained at 3% until 1888, when the finance minister converted the Consolidated 3% Annuities, along with Reduced 3% Annuities (1752) and New 3% Annuities (1855), into a new bond─the 2.75% Consolidated Stock. The interest rate was further reduced to 2.5% in 1903.
Interest rates briefly went back up in 1927 when Winston Churchill issued a new government stock, the 4% Consols, as a partial refinancing of WWI war bonds.
American Ascendancy: The U.S. Treasury Notes
The United States Congress passed an act in 1870 authorizing three separate consol issues with redemption privileges after 10, 15, and 30 years. This was the beginning of what became known as Treasury Bills, the modern benchmark for interest rates.
The Great Inflation of the 1970s
In the 1970s, the global stock market was a mess. Over an 18-month period, the market lost 40% of its value. For close to a decade, few people wanted to invest in public markets. Economic growth was weak, resulting in double-digit unemployment rates.
The low interest policies of the Federal Reserve in the early ‘70s encouraged full employment, but also caused high inflation. Under new leadership, the central bank would later reverse its policies, raising interest rates to 20% in an effort to reset capitalism and encourage investment.
Looking Forward: Cheap Money
Since then, interest rates set by government debt have been rapidly declining, while the global economy has rapidly expanded. Further, financial crises have driven interest rates to just above zero in order to spur spending and investment.
It is clear that the arc of lending bends towards ever-decreasing interest rates, but how low can they go?
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