Infographic: Warren Buffett's Biggest Wins & Fails
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Warren Buffett’s Biggest Wins & Fails

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Warren Buffett’s investing track record is nearly impeccable.

Over his lifetime, Buffett has built Berkshire Hathaway into one of the biggest companies in American history, amassed a personal fortune of over $80 billion, and earned acclaim as one of the world’s foremost philanthropists.

But in a 75-year career, it’s no surprise that even Buffett has made the odd blunder – and there’s one that he claims has ultimately costed him an estimated $200 billion!

The Warren Buffett Series

Part 4: Buffett’s Biggest Wins and Fails

Today’s infographic highlights Buffett’s investing strokes of genius, as well as a few decisions he would take back.

It’s the fourth 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 dabble in cryptocurrencies or become the next famous value investor.

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

Warren Buffett's Biggest Wins and Fails
Note: New series parts will be released intermittently. Stay tuned for future parts with our free mailing list.

How did Buffett go from local paperboy to the world’s most iconic investor?

Here are the backstories behind five of Warren’s biggest acts of genius. These are the events and decisions that would propel his name into investing folklore for centuries to come.

Buffett’s 5 Biggest Wins

From making shrewd value investing calls to taking advantage of misfortune in the salad oil market, here are some of the stories that are Buffett classics:

1. GEICO (1951)
At 20 years old, Buffett was attending Columbia Business School, and was a student of Benjamin Graham’s.

When young Buffett learned that Graham was on the board of the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO), he immediately took a train to Washington, D.C. to visit the company’s headquarters.

On a Saturday, Buffett banged on the door of the building until a janitor let him in, and Buffett met Lorimer Davidson – the future CEO of GEICO. Ultimately, Davidson spent four hours talking to this “highly unusual young man”.

He answered my questions, taught me the insurance business and explained to me the competitive advantage that GEICO had. That afternoon changed my life.

– Warren Buffett

By Monday, Buffett was “more excited about GEICO than any other stock in [his] life” and started buying it on the open market. He put 65% of his small fortune of $20,000 into GEICO, and the money he earned from the deal would provide a solid foundation for Buffett’s future fortune.

Although Buffett sold GEICO after locking in solid gains, the stock would rise as much as 100x over time. Buffett bought his favorite stock again a few years later, loaded up further during the 1970s, and eventually bought the whole company in the 1990s.

2. Sanborn Maps (1960)
This early deal may not be Buffett’s biggest – but it’s the clearest case of Benjamin Graham’s influence on his style.

Sanborn Maps had a lucrative business around making city maps for insurers, but eventually its mapping business started dying – and the falling stock price reflected this trend.

Buffett, after diving deep into the company’s financials, realized that Sanborn had a large investment portfolio that was built up over the company’s stronger years. Sanborn’s stock was worth $45 per share, but the value of the company’s investments tallied to $65 per share.

In other words, these investments held by the company were alone worth more than the stock – and that didn’t include the actual value of the map business itself!

Buffett accumulated the stock in 1958 and 1959, eventually putting 35% of his partnership assets in it. Then, he became a director, and convinced other shareholders to use the investment portfolio to buy out stockholders. He walked away with a 50% profit.

3. The Salad Oil Swindle (1963)
For a value investor like Buffett, every mishap is a potential opportunity.

And in 1963, a con artist named Anthony “Tino” De Angelis inadvertently set Buffett up for a massive home run. After De Angelis attempted to corner the soybean oil market using false inventories and loans, the market subsequently collapsed.

American Express – the world’s largest credit card company at the time – got caught up in the disaster, and its stock price halved as investors thought the company would fail.

Although everyone else panicked, Buffett knew the scandal wouldn’t affect the overall value of the business. He was right – and bought 5% of American Express for $20 million. By 1973, Buffett’s investment increased ten times in value.

4. Capital Cities / ABC (1985)
In the 1980s, corporate raiders and takeover madness reigned supreme.

The massive TV network ABC found itself vulnerable, and sold itself to a company that promised to keep its legacy intact. Capital Cities, a relative unknown and a fraction of the size, had somehow managed to buy ABC.

The CEO of Cap Cities, Tom Murphy – one of Buffett’s favorite managers in the world – gave Warren a call:

Pal, you’re not going to believe this. I’ve just bought ABC. You’ve got to come and tell me how I’m going to pay for it.

– Tom Murphy, Capital Cities CEO

Berkshire dropped $500 million to finance the deal. This turned Buffett into Murphy’s much-needed “900-lb gorilla” – a loyal shareholder that would hold onto shares regardless of price, as Murphy figured out how to turn the company around.

It turned out to be a fantastic gamble for Buffett, as Capital Cities/ABC sold to Disney for $19 billion in 1995.

5. Freddie Mac (1988)
Buffett started loading up on shares of Freddie Mac in 1988 for $4 per share.

By 2000, Buffett noticed the company was taking unnecessary risks to deliver double-digit growth. This risk, and its short-term focus, turned Buffett off the company. As a result, at a share price close to $70, he sold virtually all of his holdings, enjoying a return of more than 1,500%.

I figure if you see just one cockroach, there’s probably a lot.

– Warren Buffett

Later on, Freddie Mac’s business would collapse in the housing crisis, only to be taken over by the U.S. federal government. Today, its stock sells for a mere $1.50 per share.

Buffett’s Blunders

Over the course of 75 years, it’s not surprising that even Buffett has made some serious mistakes. Here are his costliest ones:

1. Berkshire Hathaway (1962)
When Buffett first invested in Berkshire Hathaway, it was a fledgling textile company.

Buffett eventually tried to pull out, but the company changed the terms of the deal at the last minute. Buffett was spiteful, and loaded up with enough stock to fire the CEO that deceived him.

The textiles business was terrible and sucked up capital – and Berkshire unintentionally would become Buffett’s holding company for other deals. This mistake, he estimates, costed him an estimated $200 billion.

2. Dexter Shoes (1993)
Dexter Shoe Co. had a long, profitable history, an enduring franchise, and suberb management. In other words, it was the exact kind of company Buffett liked.

Buffett dropped $433 million in 1993 to buy the company, but the company’s competitive advantage soon waned. To make matters worse, Warren Buffett financed the deal with Berkshire’s own stock, compounding the mistake hugely. It ended up costing the company $3.5 billion.

To date, Dexter is the worst deal that I’ve made. But I’ll make more mistakes in the future – you can bet on that.

– Warren Buffett

Later on, Buffett would say that this deal deserved a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as a top financial disaster.

3. Amazon.com (2000s)
Buffett says not buying Amazon was one of his biggest mistakes.

I did not think [founder Jeff Bezos] could succeed on the scale he has. [I] underestimated the brilliance of the execution.

– Warren Buffett

Given that Amazon has shot up in value to become one of the most valuable companies in the world, and that Jeff Bezos is by now the far richest person globally, it’s fair to say this whiff continues to haunt Buffett to this day.

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Mapped: 2023 Inflation Forecasts by Country

Inflation surged on a global scale in 2022, hitting record-level highs in many countries. Could it finally subside in 2023?

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2023 Inflation

Mapped: 2023 Inflation Forecasts by Country

This was originally posted on Advisor Channel. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on financial markets that help advisors and their clients.

Inflation surged on a global scale in 2022, hitting record-level highs in many countries. Could it finally subside in 2023?

In the above infographic, we look to answer that question using the World Economic Outlook report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Not Yet Out of the Woods

While the IMF predicts that global inflation peaked in late 2022, rates in 2023 are expected to remain higher than usual in many parts of the world. Following the 8.8% global inflation rate in 2022, the IMF forecasts a 6.6% rate for 2023 and 4.3% rate for 2024 based on their most recent January 2023 update.

For the optimists, the good news is that the double-digit inflation that characterized nearly half the world in 2022 is expected to be less prevalent this year. For the pessimists, on the other hand, looking at countries like Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Turkey, and Poland may suggest that we are far from out of the woods on a global scale.

Here are the countries with the highest forecasted inflation rates in 2023.

Country / RegionProjected Annual Inflation % Change 2023
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe204.6%
🇻🇪 Venezuela195.0%
🇸🇩 Sudan76.9%
🇦🇷 Argentina76.1%
🇹🇷 Turkiye51.2%
🇮🇷 Islamic Republic of Iran40.0%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka29.5%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia28.6%
🇸🇷 Suriname27.2%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone26.8%
🇸🇸 South Sudan21.7%
🇭🇹 Haiti21.2%
🇬🇭 Ghana20.9%
🇵🇰 Pakistan19.9%
🇳🇬 Nigeria17.3%
🇾🇪 Yemen17.1%
🇲🇼 Malawi16.5%
🇵🇱 Poland14.3%
🇲🇩 Moldova13.8%
🇲🇲 Myanmar13.3%
🇭🇺 Hungary13.3%
🇧🇾 Belarus13.1%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic12.4%
🇬🇳 Guinea12.2%
🇲🇳 Mongolia12.2%
🇪🇬 Egypt12.0%
🇦🇴 Angola11.8%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan11.3%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe11.2%
🇷🇴 Romania11.0%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan10.8%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan10.8%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan10.5%
🇸🇰 Slovak Republic10.1%
🇨🇬 Democratic Republic of the Congo9.8%
🇿🇲 Zambia9.6%
🇪🇪 Estonia9.5%
🇲🇪 Montenegro9.2%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh9.1%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom9.0%

While the above countries fight to sustain their purchasing power, some parts of the world are expected to continue faring exceptionally well against the backdrop of a widespread cost-of-living crisis. Many Asian countries, notably Japan, Taiwan, and China, are all predicted to see inflation lower than 3% in the upcoming year.

When it comes to low inflation, Japan in particular stands out. With strict price controls, negative interest rates, and an aging population, the country is expected to see an inflation rate of just 1.4% in 2023.

Inflation Drivers

While rising food and energy prices accounted for much of the inflation we saw in 2022, the IMF’s World Economic Outlook highlights that core inflation, which excludes food, energy, transport and housing prices, is now also a major driving factor in high inflation rates around the world.

Drivers of Inflation
What makes up core inflation exactly? In this case, it would include things like supply chain cost pressures and the effects of high energy prices slowly trickling down into numerous industries and trends in the labor market, such as the availability of jobs and rising wages. As these macroeconomic factors play out throughout 2023, each can have an effect on inflation.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are also still at play in this year’s inflation forecasts. While the latter mainly played out in China in 2022, the possible resurgence of new variants continues to threaten economic recovery worldwide, and the war persists in leaving a mark internationally.

The confluence of macroeconomic factors currently at play is unlike what we’ve seen in a long time. Though the expertise of forecasters can give us a general understanding, how they will actually play out is for us to wait and see.

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