It's the investment vehicle of arguably the most legendary investor in the world, its portfolio never seems to stop growing, and its historical returns have been leagues better than many stock investments.
Buy, hold, and profit outrageously
The main one is the most blatantly obvious. Berkshire Hathaway has produced shareholder returns that are nothing short of outstanding -- and through several economic recessions and scary market pull-backs, no less.
Over the last 25 years, Berkshire Hathaway's total return has hit nearly 3,000%. No, I didn't accidentally add any zeroes to that figure. This trounces the growth of the S&P, which in itself is considerable at nearly 500%.
That's because of the second reason I'm enamored of the company -- its laser-sharp eye for finding quality companies at bargain prices. Warren and his lieutenants achieve this through down-to-earth value investing, snapping up promising stocks when they're cheap and keeping them in the portfolio as they rise. It's the ultimate buy-and-hold strategy, and it works beautifully.
Even some of the classic Berkshire stocks that have fallen out of favor with the market -- unhealthy beverage maker Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and scandal-prone bank Wells Fargo, to name two notable examples -- still boast returns that would make any portfolio manager's eyes water.
If we reach back to the late 1980s, when Berkshire bought the Coca-Cola stake, we see that the soda giant has risen by over 1,700%. Tracking Wells Fargo since Berkshire's entry in the same timeframe shows that the bank's stock is up by nearly the same level, despite the company's many recent difficulties (and despite a sell-off of a tiny portion of Berkshire's big stake).
Finally, although it's famous for a thoughtful, long-term investing strategy, Berkshire is admirably quick and flexible when it comes to opportunities that pop up in the market. A great recent example of this is its cashing out of 700 million Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) warrants, the culmination of a neat deal it engineered in 2011.
Back then, Bank of America was one of the most wounded casualties of the previous decade's financial crisis, and the market largely shunned its stock even as other bank stocks rebounded. Betting big that it would recover, Warren and company pounced on the opportunity to eventually own a big stake in one of the four biggest U.S. lenders.
That faith in Bank of America paid off. Actually, that's an understatement -- Berkshire's initial $5 billion investment is now worth more than three times that figure.
At the beginning of this year, the once tech-adverse Buffett and his investment vehicle doubled down on its stake in Apple. Following that, the iPhone maker reported fiscal Q1 results that smashed records, and the stock saw a nice pop. It's generally moved higher since.
50-plus years of victories
There are countless examples in the sprawling Berkshire portfolio of ingeniously timed purchases like the Bank of America deal or the Apple buy. Over half a century ago, there was the massive American Express buy-in, at a time when it seemed an ugly financial scandal would encourage investors to leave the don't-leave-home-without-it company in droves.
In other words, little has changed for Buffett and Berkshire. They have been making well-conceived and brilliantly timed investments for longer than some of us, myself included, have been alive. It's a remarkable, sustained performance, and the company richly deserves all of the investor love that flows from it.
Eric Volkman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.