Annual Letter 1993 Coke ,Gillette e tanto altro

Riporto un bellissimo e significativo estratto della lettera annuale di Warren Buffett dell’anno 1993.

Over time, of course, 
market price and intrinsic value will arrive at about the same
destination. But in the short run the two often diverge in a
major way, a phenomenon I've discussed in the past. Two years
ago, Coca-Cola and Gillette, both large holdings of ours, enjoyed
market price increases that dramatically outpaced their earnings
gains. In the 1991 Annual Report, I said that the stocks of
these companies could not continuously overperform their
businesses.

From 1991 to 1993, Coke and Gillette increased their annual
operating earnings per share by 38% and 37% respectively, but
their market prices moved up only 11% and 6%. In other words,
the companies overperformed their stocks, a result that no doubt
partly reflects Wall Street's new apprehension about brand names.
Whatever the reason, what will count over time is the earnings
performance of these companies. If they prosper, Berkshire will
also prosper, though not in a lock-step manner.

Let me add a lesson from history: Coke went public in 1919
at $40 per share. By the end of 1920 the market, coldly
reevaluating Coke's future prospects, had battered the stock down
by more than 50%, to $19.50. At yearend 1993, that single share,
with dividends reinvested, was worth more than $2.1 million. As
Ben Graham said: "In the short-run, the market is a voting
machine - reflecting a voter-registration test that requires only
money, not intelligence or emotional stability - but in the long-
run, the market is a weighing machine."
 But we 
continue to think that it is usually foolish to part with an
interest in a business that is both understandable and durably
wonderful. Business interests of that kind are simply too hard to
replace.

Interestingly, corporate managers have no trouble
understanding that point when they are focusing on a business they
operate: A parent company that owns a subsidiary with superb long-
term economics is not likely to sell that entity regardless of
price. "Why," the CEO would ask, "should I part with my crown
jewel?" Yet that same CEO, when it comes to running his personal
investment portfolio, will offhandedly - and even impetuously -
move from business to business when presented with no more than
superficial arguments by his broker for doing so. The worst of
these is perhaps, "You can't go broke taking a profit." Can you
imagine a CEO using this line to urge his board to sell a star
subsidiary? In our view, what makes sense in business also makes
sense in stocks: An investor should ordinarily hold a small piece
of an outstanding business with the same tenacity that an owner
would exhibit if he owned all of that business.

Earlier I mentioned the financial results that could have been 
achieved by investing $40 in The Coca-Cola Co. in 1919. In 1938,
more than 50 years after the introduction of Coke, and long after
the drink was firmly established as an American icon, Fortune did
an excellent story on the company. In the second paragraph the
writer reported: "Several times every year a weighty and serious
investor looks long and with profound respect at Coca-Cola's
record, but comes regretfully to the conclusion that he is looking
too late. The specters of saturation and competition rise before
him."
 Yes, competition there was in 1938 and in 1993 as well.  But 
it's worth noting that in 1938 The Coca-Cola Co. sold 207 million
cases of soft drinks (if its gallonage then is converted into the
192-ounce cases used for measurement today) and in 1993 it sold
about 10.7 billion cases, a 50-fold increase in physical volume
from a company that in 1938 was already dominant in its very major
industry. Nor was the party over in 1938 for an investor: Though
the $40 invested in 1919 in one share had (with dividends
reinvested) turned into $3,277 by the end of 1938, a fresh $40 then
invested in Coca-Cola stock would have grown to $25,000 by yearend
1993.

I can't resist one more quote from that 1938 Fortune story:
"It would be hard to name any company comparable in size to Coca-
Cola and selling, as Coca-Cola does, an unchanged product that can
point to a ten-year record anything like Coca-Cola's." In the 55
years that have since passed, Coke's product line has broadened
somewhat, but it's remarkable how well that description still fits.

 Is it really so difficult to conclude that Coca-Cola and 
Gillette possess far less business risk over the long term than,
say, any computer company or retailer? Worldwide, Coke sells about
44% of all soft drinks, and Gillette has more than a 60% share (in
value) of the blade market. Leaving aside chewing gum, in which
Wrigley is dominant, I know of no other significant businesses in
which the leading company has long enjoyed such global power.

Moreover, both Coke and Gillette have actually increased their
worldwide shares of market in recent years. The might of their
brand names, the attributes of their products, and the strength of
their distribution systems give them an enormous competitive
advantage, setting up a protective moat around their economic
castles. The average company, in contrast, does battle daily
without any such means of protection. As Peter Lynch says, stocks
of companies selling commodity-like products should come with a
warning label: "Competition may prove hazardous to human wealth."
Annunci

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