Warren Buffett’s position on gold is well known, if a little difficult to fathom. This is from Buffett’s appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box on March 9, 2009, but could have been taken from any of his commentary over the last fifty years:
BECKY: OK. I want to get to a question that came from an investment club of seventh and eighth graders who invest $1 million in fake money every year. This is the Grizzell Middle School Investment Club in Dublin, Ohio, and the question is, where do you think gold will be in five years and should that be a part of value investing?
BUFFETT: I have no views as to where it will be, but the one thing I can tell you is it won’t do anything between now and then except look at you. Whereas, you know, Coca-Cola (KO) will be making money, and I think Wells Fargo (WFC) will be making a lot of money and there will be a lot–and it’s a lot–it’s a lot better to have a goose that keeps laying eggs than a goose that just sits there and eats insurance and storage and a few things like that. The idea of digging something up out of the ground, you know, in South Africa or someplace and then transporting it to the United States and putting into the ground, you know, in the Federal Reserve of New York, does not strike me as a terrific asset.
Then there’s this comment from Buffett on the relative performance of Berkshire Hathway (BRK.A) book value and an ounce of gold over fifteen years in the 1979 letter to shareholders:
One friendly but sharp-eyed commentator on Berkshire has pointed out that our book value at the end of 1964 would have bought about one-half ounce of gold and, fifteen years later, after we have plowed back all earnings along with much blood, sweat and tears, the book value produced will buy about the same half ounce. A similar comparison could be drawn with Middle Eastern oil. The rub has been that government has been exceptionally able in printing money and creating promises, but is unable to print gold or create oil.
Fifteen years of blood, sweat and tears from the greatest investor in the world and he just breaks even with gold, which “just sits there and eats insurance and storage and a few things like that.” And still he recommends avoiding gold.
For tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his owne petar.
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Greenbackd is dedicated to unearthing undervalued asset situations where a catalyst exists likely to unlock the value. Greenbackd focuses on assets for three reasons:
1. Assets are simpler to value than earnings: Earnings are often difficult to forecast with any degree of accuracy and we can’t value a security based on unknown future earnings. Assets, on the other hand, are known quantities at filing. This is not to say that the value of the assets recorded in the filing is the value we ascribe to them. We disregard intangible assets, heavily discount long-term and fixed assets, and apply a modest discount to current assets. We take only cash at face value. For these reasons, we prefer that each security is predominantly backed by cash, hence our name: Greenbackd. 2. Assets anticipate the downside, the liquidation value, first: This forces us to be conservative in our assessment of value.
3. Assets are a contrarian measure of value: To the extent that Wall Street makes any assessment of value, it is obsessed with earnings. It pays little attention to assets. This creates an opportunity where a valuation based on a company’s earnings underestimates the company’s asset value.
Our favorite stocks are those trading at a substantial discount to liquidation value with an activist investor pushing the company to undertake some corporate action (for example, return capital, pay a special dividend, buy back stock, sell a key asset or the entire company). Greenbackd is penned by a former securities lawyer now working in value-oriented activist funds management