🎙️ Buffett's Letter

[5 minutes to read] Plus: Reddit embraces meme stock traders

By Matthew Gutierrez and Shawn O’Malley

If you’ve ever looked around and thought, “there are too many people on this planet,” well, you probably don’t live in one of the 757 U.S. counties where there are more cattle than humans.

In another 593 counties, chickens are the most common “domesticated animal” (that includes people).

In 60 counties, there are more turkeys than anything else, sheep in 9 counties, and goats in 5. And there are at least 2 counties with more ducks than people.

💭 Our Chart of the Day shows more — the longer you look at it, the more it reveals about different regions’ geographies and economies.

Matthew & Shawn

Here’s today’s rundown:

Today, we'll discuss the biggest stories in markets:

  • Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings & Buffett’s new letter

  • Reddit embraces meme stock traders

This, and more, in just 5 minutes to read.

POP QUIZ

What are the five most populated states in the U.S.? (Read to the end to find out!)

Chart of the Day

In The News

💰 Berkshire Hathaway Operating Earnings Jump 28%

In his latest annual letter to shareholders, Warren Buffett remembered Charlie Munger both as the “architect” of Berkshire and as a cherished partner. 

A touching tribute: Buffett explained how Munger recommended in 1965 that Buffett add “wonderful businesses purchased at fair prices” to the struggling textile business that Buffett had taken control of.

  • “With much back-sliding I subsequently followed his instructions,” Buffett, 93, wrote.

  • Berkshire has grown to become the seventh-largest U.S. company by market value, and Buffett credited Munger for helping it get there.

  • “Charlie never sought to take credit for his role as creator but instead let me take the bows and receive the accolades,” Buffett wrote. “In a way his relationship with me was part older brother, part loving father. Even when he knew he was right, he gave me the reins, and when I blundered he never—never—reminded me of my mistake.”

What to know: Buffett said Greg Abel and Ajit Jain would join him on stage at the annual meeting in Omaha this year. The event, the “Woodstock for Capitalists,” is set for May 4. Abel and Jain respectively lead Berkshire’s noninsurance and insurance businesses.

  • Berkshire released its results for 2023, reporting a profit of $96.2 billion, plus operating earnings that rose to $37.35 billion, thanks largely to the company’s insurance business.

  • Berkshire recently trimmed its large position in Apple while adding to Chevron and Occidental Petroleum.

  • The company maintained its big holdings of Bank of America, American Express, and Coca-Cola.

Berkshire’s stock has soared lately. Class B shares are up 17% this year vs. 6.7% by the S&P 500. Both Class A and Class B shares hit records on Friday.

Source: Financial Times

Why it matters:

Investors study Buffett’s every move because, well, he’s the best in the biz. 

Sittin’ on cash: Berkshire ended 2023 with a record $167.6 billion in cash and equivalents. 

  • Buffett wrote in his letter that Berkshire’s big size and increased competition from other investors have limited opportunities.

  • “There remain only a handful of companies in this country capable of truly moving the needle at Berkshire, and they have been endlessly picked over by us and by others,” Buffett said. “Some we can value; some we can’t. And, if we can, they have to be attractively priced…All in all, we have no possibility of eye-popping performance.”

Three key quotes from the Oracle:

  • “Panics won’t happen often — but they will happen. Berkshire’s ability to immediately respond to market seizures with both huge sums and certainty of performance may offer us an occasional large-scale opportunity.”

  • “One investment rule at Berkshire has not and will not change: never risk permanent loss of capital. Thanks to the American tailwind and the power of compound interest, the arena in which we operate has been — and will be — rewarding if you make a couple of good decisions during a lifetime and avoid serious mistakes.”

  • “At Berkshire, we particularly favor the rare enterprise that can deploy additional capital at high returns in the future. Owning only one of these companies — and simply sitting tight — can deliver wealth almost beyond measure.”

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👀 Reddit Embraces Meme Stock Traders

What’s the opposite of Warren Buffett? Probably meme stocks, and the home to meme stock traders — Reddit, aka the front page of the internet, filed for an IPO last week.

It’s a big deal not just for investment bankers who hope Reddit can reverse a fledgling IPO market where new stock listings have been welcomed less than enthusiastically but because it’s the first major social media company to go public since Pinterest in 2019.

Court drama: Coincidentally, the announcement overlaps with landmark Supreme Court cases on the First Amendment and how it applies to social media companies. Specifically, whether they can remove controversial content/politicians’ accounts and whether states can sue social media companies for content moderation.

  • The debate boils down to whether social media companies are seen as private publishers able to curate content at their own discretion or are more like public utilities that must act as a “town square” for all.

Why it matters:

As the saying goes about social media businesses, you are the product, and nowhere is that arguably more true than Reddit, where over 60,000 moderators (“mods”) manage thousands of communities (subreddits), ranging from the infamous Wall Street Bets to memes, fitness, politics, and other manifestations of internet culture.

Despite working for free, mods are critical to the platform, filtering out spam, setting the rules for a subreddit’s engagement, and moderating conversations.

  • Reddit has a rather half-hearted solution for its dependence on an army of unpaid internet workers: Reserving 75,000 shares from its IPO for its most active Redditors.

The catch? This isn’t the type of stock-based compensation employees get. Instead, it’s merely an early opportunity for Redditors to buy the company’s stock at full price, providing funding directly to Reddit, which has never been profitable since its launch in 2005.

  • While Reddit mods happily volunteer their time, it is, as Bloomberg’s Matt Levine puts it, a bit “awkward” that the IPO will likely value Reddit at roughly $5 billion, yet mods don’t share in the revenue earned from ads shown on their subreddits.

The chance to buy in early into an IPO can be valuable — especially if the stock surges in its first few days of trading. But it’s little consolation after last year’s tensions between corporate Reddit and its users following crackdowns on third-party developers.

More Headlines

🚜 Farmers’ protests continue across Europe

FTC sues to block Kroger + Albertsons merger on concerns about higher prices and hurting workers

🧩 With liquidity scarce, venture capital funds are getting creative to return capital

☎️ Tiffany & Co.’s rise to household name via the Trans-Atlantic telegraph

🛑 BP exec’s husband guilty of insider trading $1.8 million after overheard phone call

🏢 Why the apartment boom won’t bring down rent for many

Quick Poll

Are you interested in investing in Reddit amid its IPO?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

On Friday, we asked: Would you ever give your money to a big hedge fund like Citadel?

— While results were virtually 50-50, most people who said “no” said things like “I know waste when I see it” and “FEEs, fees, and more fees! Hedge funds over-promise, over-charge, and under-deliver.”

— Another wrote: “Ken Griffin and Citadel are overrated.”

TRIVIA ANSWER

The five most populated states in the U.S. are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan round out the top 10.

See you next time!

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