Dueling Fools: Berkshire Hathaway Bull Rebuttal

Planning doesn't eliminate uncertainty, but being prepared for the future helps minimize risk. That's precisely what Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) is doing -- no surprise, since it's in the insurance business. Mr. Buffett plans to work until death or disability, but the idea that Berkshire's fortunes are tied to one man is a myth. There is a mechanism in place for his eventual departure, and the corporate culture of Berkshire will not be buried with Buffett himself.

When you compare Berkshire to Allstate (NYSE: ALL  ) or Chubb (NYSE: CB  ) , it may not be apples to oranges, but the companies are not the same. (Oranges to tangerines, maybe.) Berkshire dominates the worldwide reinsurance market. When Allstate wants to raise rates, it must worry about competitors and state regulators alike. In contrast, Berkshire has little competition and scant regulatory oversight.

Paying dividends to shareholders makes sense when the company cannot use those retained earnings more effectively. Berkshire management assesses, on a five-year rolling basis, whether or not shareholders earn $1 of market value for each $1 in retained earnings. Currently, management passes that test. Getting a dividend from Berkshire would also subject investors to additional interference from the Internal Revenue Service.

The Oracle of Omaha would appreciate my counterpart's analysis of Berkshire Hathaway, especially the point about successfully deploying the tremendous amount of cash Berkshire generates. But since when is too much money a bad problem?

Jimmy Buffett, a distant cousin of Warren, routinely thanks his fans for "40 years of never having a real job." Warren and Jimmy both truly enjoy their occupations. There are far worse purchases than Jimmy Buffett tickets, and far worse places to invest than Berkshire Hathaway.

Think you're done with the Duel? Think again! Go back and read the other arguments, sound off in CAPS, and vote for the winner.

Fool contributor Buz Livingston is a Parrothead and a certified financial planner. He owns Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway, an Inside Value recommendation, but has owned Jimmy Buffett albums much longer. He lives by the beach and appreciates your feedback. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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