5 Warren Buffett Wisdoms on This Powerful Industry

The Oracle of Omaha tells you everything you need to know about energy.

Mar 11, 2014 at 1:11PM


Source: HomeServices America. 

When Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett invests, the world watches. Such was the case with his acquisition of NV Energy (NYSE:NVE) last year -- a surprise move as most investors ignored utilities. In his latest shareholder letter, here are his five latest ideas on utilities.

1. "Though there are many regulatory restraints in the utility industry, it's possible that we will make additional commitments in the field. If we do, the amounts involved could be large." -- 1999 Annual Report 

Warren Buffett is wise enough to look to the past in his latest Berkshire Hathaway letter. Fifteen years ago, Warren Buffett was already eying the opportunity of NV Energy. That sort of long-term vision is exactly what makes utilities excellent investments for patient investors: Invest. Wait. Enjoy Dividend. Reap long-term profit. Repeat.

2. Each company [MidAmerican Energy and BNSF] has earning power that even under terrible economic conditions will far exceed its interest requirements. 

Utilities have drastically underperformed the S&P 500 over the past decade:

^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts. 

In the last five years (roughly the length of the recovery), the S&P 500 has gained 175%, compared to just 84% for the utilities. But share prices aren't always equivalent to value, and much of this sector's lag might be attributed to eager investors looking for big growth. Warren Buffett's better than that.

The oracle of Omaha points to "recession-resistant earnings" from utilities' "essential service" (electricity). And for MidAmerican and NV Energy, Buffett points out the added benefit of diverse earnings streams, shielding earnings from any overeager regulatory body.

3. Tangible proof of our dedication to that duty [to regulators and customers] was delivered last year in a poll of customer satisfaction covering 52 holding companies and their 101 operating electric utilities. Our MidAmerican group ranked number one... 

Read Your Bill

Source: NV Energy, Inc. 

Utilities aren't exactly consumer goods. Customers don't think about buying electricity the way they agonize over which smartphone to purchase. But Buffett hasn't forgotten that customers matter, and his MidAmerican group blew away the competition. Of its customers,  95.3% were "very satisfied" with his utilities' service, while not a single respondent said he or she was "dissatisfied."

And if you think customers simply don't care, consider the fact that the worst company earned a ridiculously rotten 34.5%.

4. When our current projects are completed, MidAmerican's renewables portfolio will have cost $15 billion. We relish making such commitments as long as they promise reasonable returns. And, on that front, we put a large amount of trust in future regulation. 

Source: NextEra Energy, Inc. 

Renewable energy is a heated debate in the world of utilities. Production tax credits are the backbone of an energy company like NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE), with 10,000+ MW of wind power. With $15 billion of its own invested, MidAmerican (and NV Energy) are no different.

Investing in renewables is a risk for energy companies -- wind subsidies could come to a standstill, and the sun could stop shining on solar if political support goes sour. But Buffett is at least willing to bet renewables are worth the risk -- and he's got $15 billion on the table to prove it.

5. NV Energy will not be MidAmerican's last major acquisition. 

Berkshire Hathaway owns two major regulated, capital-intensive businesses: MidAmerican Energy and transport company BNSF. Investors had been holding their breath last year to see what Buffett's next brilliant move would be. And when news of NV Energy hit the racks, utilities got a fresh once-over by many analysts. With the Oracle of Omaha's hint of more to come, utilities aren't a one-off investment for this billionaire, and his next investment could be even better than his last.

Buffett's greatest wisdom
Warren Buffett has made billions through his energy investments, and he wants you to be able to invest like him. Through the years, Buffett has offered up investing tips to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Now you can tap into the best of Warren Buffett's wisdom in a new special report from The Motley Fool. Click here now for a free copy of this invaluable report.

Justin Loiseau owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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