Warren Buffet

Up In The Air

© Can Stock Photo / jefras

We have written before about the miracle of air travel. You can go from breakfast on the coast to lunch in the middle of the country, renting the use of an $80 million machine and the services of $1 million in payroll for just a couple hundred dollars.

It is no wonder that US passengers flew 57% more miles in a recent year than they had twenty years before. This record of growth included the disruption caused by terrorists on 9/11. Our commercial aviation system was used against us, to devastating effect. Dramatic changes in the flying experience resulted. But traffic volumes still grew over the long term.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has created a larger shock to air traffic volumes. Noted investor Warren Buffett, who had previously invested in four major US airlines, recently announced the sale of those holdings by his firm. Many are wondering what to think.

Our research and thinking will continue to evolve, but we do have thoughts to share.

  • Buffett had the luxury of selling out before news of his sales depressed the share prices. What we may choose to do today is a different set of choices than what could be done last month.
  • Although he is arguably the most successful investor in all of human history, he has proven to be wrong from time to time. (We treasure those moments when we were right and he was not– just ask us, we will tell you all about them.)
  • Buffett’s original idea, that he was buying $1 billion per year of earning power for an $8 billion investment in airline ownership, became obsolete. But perhaps the buyers of those shares have purchased $1 billion per year of future earning power for less money, $6 billion. No guarantees.

The future of air travel and participating companies is up in the air. But it seems likely to us that the miracle of air travel will sooner or later exert its charms over an increasing number of people from year to year. We are working to understand what this all means in terms of investment opportunities and challenges.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Meet Your Partner, Mr. Market

© www.canstockphoto.com / stokkete

Suppose that you owned a partnership interest in a business, and that your business partner was readily available any day to either buy out your half of the business or sell his half to you—as long as the price was right.

Suppose, though, that your partner suffered from erratic mood swings. He can quote you the price he’ll buy or sell for any time, but his appraisals are always colored by his current mood. When business is good he over-values the business and offers you the moon for your half of the business; when business is poor he becomes pessimistic and offers to sell you his share for pennies on the dollar.

This is a metaphor Warren Buffett uses in his shareholder letters to describe the stock market from the investor’s perspective, dubbing our hypothetical business partner “Mr. Market.” As a stock holder you have an ownership interest of a tiny slice in a business. There is a market to buy or sell shares of the business at almost any time. But the price the market may give you depends on investor moods.

According to Buffett, if you understand the value of a business it’s in your best interest to take advantage of Mr. Market’s mood swings to trade when his prices are at their most irrational. However, he also offers this warning:

“But, like Cinderella at the ball, you must heed one warning or everything will turn into pumpkins and mice: Mr. Market is there to serve you, not to guide you. It is his pocketbook, not his wisdom, that you will find useful. If he shows up some day in a particularly foolish mood, you are free to either ignore him or to take advantage of him, but it will be disastrous if you fall under his influence.”

So when the market is in a frenzy of buying or selling, there may be opportunities to profitably take advantage of the stampede—but not to join it.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Lessons in Letters: The Wisdom of Warren Buffett, Part 1

Downtown Omaha skylineWarren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, is a widely acclaimed investor and businessman. He is not perfect and he has been controversial at times. However, to our knowledge Buffett has made more money investing than any other human being on the planet. So he has that going for him, which is nice.

Almost 40 years’ worth of Buffett’s annual shareholder letters are available at www.berkshirehathaway.com. They provide a wealth of information on his views, methods, and insights. Some things from 1977 have gone away, like VHS tapes and KC & The Sunshine Band, but Warren Buffett’s letter for that year contains some timeless insights.

“Most of our large stock positions are going to be held for many years and the scorecard on our investment decisions will be provided by business results over that period, and not by prices on any given day.”

He goes on to write,

“We ordinarily make no attempt to buy equities for anticipated favorable stock price behavior in the short term. In fact, if their business experience continues to satisfy us, we welcome lower market prices of stocks we own as an opportunity to acquire even more of a good thing at a better price.”

Notice that his focus is on the business, not the stock. Buffett did not build his fortune by worrying about short term price swings. He considers his investments in terms of many years, not day to day prices. And he understands that the best way to build wealth for himself and his investors is to buy great companies at bargain prices. For Buffett, falling prices are a buying opportunity rather than a source of pain and anguish.

Buffett’s insight is remarkable in a market dominated by short-term trends—as are his results. There is a lot of wisdom in these words, and we will frequently return to Buffett’s letters as a source of guidance. In the meantime, like Buffett, we continue to seek the best bargains on the market and cultivate our investment “orchard” for long-term growth rather than trying to sell if for short-term reasons.


Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.