The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart
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The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart

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Most people know Berkshire Hathaway as the massive conglomerate that serves as the investment vehicle for Warren Buffett’s $83 billion fortune. However, far fewer people know what this giant does, and how it actually makes its money!

The Warren Buffett Series

Part 3: The Warren Buffett Empire

Today’s infographic breaks down the many companies and investments that Berkshire Hathaway owns.

It’s the third part of the Warren Buffett Series, which we’ve done in partnership with finder.com, a personal finance site that helps people make better decisions – whether they want to jump on the cryptocurrency craze or follow Buffett’s more traditional path to financial success.

The Warren Buffet Series: The Early YearsInside Warren Buffett's BrainPart 3Warren Buffett's Biggest Wins and FailsBest Buffett Quotes

Explore the full-screen version of this graphic

The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart

The Warren Buffett Empire in One Giant Chart

This giant infographic is best viewed using the full-size version. Also, don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our Warren Buffett Series.

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.

Origin Story

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.

The Scoreboard

In the long-running contest of Warren Buffett vs. the market, the scoreboard isn’t even close:

 Berkshire HathawayS&P 500
Total gain (1964-2017)2,404,748%15,508%
Compound annualized gain20.9%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
Insurance$65.527%
BNSF$21.49%
Berkshire Hathaway Energy$18.98%
Manufacturing$50.421%
McLane Company$49.821%
Service and Retailing$26.311%
Finance$8.43%
Total$240.7100%

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:

IndustryCompanyEmployees
FinanceClayton Homes16,362
InsuranceGEICO38,690
ManufacturingPrecision Castparts31,984
ManufacturingFruit of the Loom26,219
ManufacturingShaw Industries21,867
ManufacturingThe Marmon Group12,763
ManufacturingForest River12,185
ManufacturingDuracell2,875
ManufacturingBenjamin Moore1,772
ManufacturingRussell Athletic1,020
ManufacturingBrooks Sports638
Railroad and UtilitiesBNSF Railways41,000
Railroad and UtilitiesBerkshire Hathaway Energy22,773
Service and RetailingMcLane Company23,859
Service and RetailingNetJets6,314
Service and RetailingBH Media Group3,719
Service and RetailingSee’s Candies2,439
Service and RetailingHelzberg Diamonds2,252
Service and RetailingThe Buffalo News618
Service and RetailingBusiness Wire486
Service and RetailingDairy Queen464
n/aBerkshire Hathaway Corporate Office26
n/aOther106,966
Total377,291

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.

Investments
Here are the companies Berkshire Hathaway has significant investments in – the whole portfolio is worth nearly $200 billion:

CompanyValue (Billions)% of Portfolio
Apple28.014.6%
Wells Fargo27.814.5%
Kraft Heinz25.313.2%
Bank of America20.010.5%
Coca Cola18.49.6%
American Express15.17.9%
Phillips 668.24.3%
U.S. Bancorp4.72.5%
Moody's3.61.9%
Bank of NY Mellon3.31.7%
Southwest Airlines3.11.6%
Delta Airlines3.01.6%
Charter Communications2.91.5%
Goldman Sachs2.81.5%
American Airlines2.41.3%
GM2.01.0%
Monsanto1.40.7%
Visa1.20.6%
Other18.09.4%
Total191.2100.0%

The portfolio is pretty much a microcosm of the American economy: it features banks, airlines, consumer goods companies, and even tech behemoths like Apple.

Other Brands
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.

ABC
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.

ESPN
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.

Heinz
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.

Washington Post
Buffett delivered the newspaper as a kid, but later in his life would be the largest outside shareholder of the famous paper.

Salomon Brothers
Buffett helped lead a desperate shakeup at one of Wall Street’s most famous investment banks.

USAir
After almost losing all the $358 million he had invested, Buffett called buying preferred shares in the airline one of his biggest mistakes.

Gillette
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.

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Investor Education

The Best Months for Stock Market Gains

This infographic analyzes over 30 years of stock market performance to identify the best and worst months for gains.

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The Best Months for Stock Market Gains

Many investors believe that equity markets perform better during certain times of the year.

Is there any truth to these claims, or is it superstitious nonsense? This infographic uses data gathered by Schroders, a British asset management firm, to investigate.

What the Data Says

This analysis is based on 31 years of performance across four major stock indexes:

  • FTSE 100: An index of the top 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange (LSE)
  • MSCI World: An index of over 1,000 large and mid-cap companies within developed markets
  • S&P 500: An index of the 500 largest companies that trade on U.S. stock exchanges
  • Eurostoxx 50: An index of the top 50 blue-chip stocks within the Eurozone region

The percentages in the following table represent the historical frequency of these indexes rising in a given month, between the years 1987 and 2018. Months are ordered from best to worst, in descending order.

RankMonth of Year Frequency of Growth (%)Difference from Mean (p.p.)
#1December79.0%+19.9
#2April74.3%+15.2
#3October68.6%+9.5
#4July61.7%+2.6
#5May58.6%-0.5
#6November58.4%-0.7
#7January57.8%-1.3
#8February57.0%-2.1
#9March56.3%-2.8
#10September51.6%-7.5
#11August49.3%-9.8
#12June36.7%-22.4
Average59.1%n/a

There are some outliers in this dataset that we’ll focus on below.

The Strong Months

In terms of frequency of growth, December has historically been the best month to own stocks. This lines up with a phenomenon known as the “Santa Claus Rally”, which suggests that equity markets rally over Christmas.

One theory is that the holiday season has a psychological effect on investors, driving them to buy rather than sell. We can also hypothesize that many institutional investors are on vacation during this time. This could give bullish retail investors more sway over the direction of the market.

The second best month was April, which is commonly regarded as a strong month for the stock market. One theory is that many investors receive their tax refunds in April, which they then use to buy stocks. The resulting influx of cash pushes prices higher.

Speaking of higher prices, we can also look at this trend from the perspective of returns. Focusing on the S&P 500, and looking back to 1928, April has generated an average return of 0.88%. This is well above the all-month average of 0.47%.

The Weak Months

The three worst months to own stocks, according to this analysis, are June, August, and September. Is it a coincidence that they’re all in the summer?

One theory for the season’s relative weakness is that institutional traders are on vacation, similar to December. Without the holiday cheer, however, the market is less frothy and the reduced liquidity leads to increased risk.

Whether you believe this or not, the data does show a convincing pattern. It’s for this reason that the phrase “sell in May and go away” has become popularized.

Key Takeaways

Investors should remember that this data is based on historical results, and should not be used to make forward-looking decisions in the stock market.

Anomalies like the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 can have a profound impact on the world, and the market as a whole. Stock market performance during these times may deviate greatly from their historical averages seen above.

Regardless, this analysis can still be useful to investors who are trying to understand market movements. For example, if stocks rise in December without any clear catalyst, it could be the famed Santa Claus Rally at work.

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Investor Education

A Visual Guide to Stock Splits

If companies want their stock price to rise, why would they want to split it, effectively lowering the price? This infographic explains why.

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A Visual Guide to Stock Splits

Imagine a shop window containing large pieces of cheese.

If the value of that cheese rises over time, the price may move beyond what the majority of people are willing to pay. This presents a problem as the store wants to continue selling cheese, and people still want to eat it.

The obvious solution is to divide the cheese into smaller pieces. That way, more people can once again afford to buy portions of it, and those who want more can simply buy more of the smaller pieces.

cheese and stock splits

The total volume of the cheese is still worth the same amount, it’s only the portion size that changed. As the infographic above by StocksToTrade demonstrates, the same concept applies to stock splits.

Like wheels of cheese, stocks can be split a number of different ways. Some of the more common splits are 2-for-1, 3-for-1, and 3-for-2. Less common splits can take place as well, such as when Apple increased its outstanding shares by a 7-to-1 ratio in 2014.

Why Companies Do Stock Splits

Of course, stocks aren’t cheese.

The real world of the financial markets, driven by macro trends and animal spirits, is more complex than items in a shop window.

If companies want their stock price to continue rising, why would they want to split it, effectively lowering the price? Here are a some specific reasons why:

1. Liquidity
As our cheese example illustrated, stocks can sometimes see price appreciation to the point where they are no longer accessible to a wide range of investors. Splitting the stock (i.e. making an individual share cheaper) is an effective way of increasing the total number of investors who can purchase shares.

2. Sending a Message
In many cases, announcing a stock split is a harbinger of prosperity for a company. Nasdaq found that companies that split their stock outperformed the market. This is likely due to investor excitement and the fact that companies often split their stock as they approach periods of growth.

3. Reducing Capital Costs
Stocks with prices that are too high have spreads that are wider than similar stocks. When spreads—the difference between the bid and offer—are too large, they eats into investor returns.

4. Meeting Index Criteria
There are specific instances when a company may want to adjust its share price to meet certain index requirements.

One example is the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the well-known 30-stock benchmark. The Dow is considered a price-weighted index, which means that the higher a company’s stock price, the more weight and influence it has within the index. Shortly after Apple conducted its 7-to-1 stock split in 2014, dropping the share price from about $650 to $90, the company was added to the DJIA.

On the flip side, a company might decide to pursue a reverse stock split. This takes the existing amount of shares held by investors and replaces them with fewer shares at a higher price. Aside from the general stigma associated with a lower share price, companies need to keep the price above a certain threshold or face the possibility of being delisted from an exchange.

Stock Splits Happen, but are not Inevitable

Alphabet will become the most recent high profile company to split their stock in early 2022. The company’s 20-for-1 stock split aims to make the share price more accessible to retail investors dropping the price from approximately $2,750 to $140 per share.

Conversely, Berkshire Hathaway has famously never split its stock. As a result, a single share of BRK.A is worth over $470,000. Berkshire Hathaway’s legendary founder, Warren Buffett, reasons that splitting the stock would run counter to his buy-and-hold investment philosophy.

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