Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway
Gerald S. Martin
American University - Kogod School of Business
University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Department of Finance
April 15, 2008
We analyze Berkshire Hathaway's equity portfolio over the 1976 to 2006 period and explore potential explanations for its superior performance. Contrary to popular belief, we find Berkshire Hathaway invests primarily in large-cap growth rather than "value" stocks. Over the period the portfolio beat the benchmarks in 27 out of 31 years, on average exceeding the S&P 500 Index by 11.14%, the value-weighted index of all stocks by 10.92%, and a Fama and French characteristic-based portfolio by 8.56% per year. Although beating the market in all but four years can statistically happen due to chance, incorporating the magnitude by which the portfolio beats the market makes a luck explanation extremely unlikely even after taking into account ex-post selection bias. We find that Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio is concentrated in relatively few stocks with the top five holdings averaging 73% of the portfolio value. While increased volatility is normally associated with higher concentration we show the volatility of the portfolio is driven by large positive returns and not downside risk. The market appears to under-react to the news of a Berkshire Hathaway stock investment since a hypothetical portfolio that mimics the investments at the beginning of the following month after they are publicly disclosed also earns significantly positive abnormal returns of 10.75% over the S&P 500 Index. Our evidence suggests the Berkshire Hathaway triumvirates of Warren Buffett, Charles Munger, and Lou Simpson posses' investment skill unlikely to be explained by Efficient Market Theory.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 51
Keywords: Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway, efficient markets, long-term performance, investment performance, abnormal returns
JEL Classification: G11, G14, G22, C22
Date posted: September 26, 2005 ; Last revised: May 5, 2008
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