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Opinion on the healthcare industry and its costs?


We looked at healthcare costs, which were exploding a few years ago. Workman's Comp costs have risen dramatically, and are huge for us. $6,000-$7,000 per employee. That's in inflationary part of the US economy and we and our employees can't control it.

我们看过医疗行业的成本问题,几年前它们的成本非常高。Workman's Comp公司的成本急剧上升,对于我们来说成本很高,每名员工的薪水是6000-6000美金。美国经济这时候在经历通货膨胀,我们和员工都无法控制。

Health costs will keep growing and we don't have any answers. But Charlie runs a hospital, so maybe he'll have some insights.


[CM: The quality of the medical care delivered, including the pharmaceutical industry, has improved a lot. I don't think it's crazy for a rich country like the US to spend 15% of on healthcare, and if it rose to 16-17%, it's not a big worry.


But if other countries spend 7-8% [of GDP on healthcare] and have good systems, are we getting a good deal?


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2003 Tilson Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2003

[Re: The Pharmaceutical Industry]


That industry is in a state of flux right now. It's historically earned very good returns on invested capital, but it could well be that the world will unfold differently in the future than in the past. I'm not sure I can give you a good answer on that.


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2003 Tilson Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2003

[CM: A lot of people have made a lot of money selling health insurance. I've seen it at Chairman of a central-city hospital [the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles]. You're right that there have been a lot of bad ethics. A lot of good ethics, too.


Generally, [investing in the healthcare area] goes into the "too hard" pile - unless Warren's been keeping something from me.]


No, we've never done anything in healthcare.


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2006 Tilson Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2006

[Re: fixing the U.S. Healthcare System]


Munger: It's too tough. We can't solve that one. We try to look for easy problems. We don't try tough things. Sometimes life hands you a very tough problem you have to wrestle with - not financial problems for us, but personal ones.


If we were looking at a private-sector solution, we'd look for low distribution costs. You don't want a lot of revenue soaked up in frictional costs, but I don't know how to do that. If we're paying 15% of GDP [for healthcare], you'd think someone would figure it out. Maybe this will come up in the upcoming presidential campaign.


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2007 Tilson Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2007

[Re: Pharma? How do you value the pipeline of drug companies?]


WB: Unlike many businesses, when we invest in pharma, we don't know the answer on the pipeline, and it'll be a different pipeline 5 years from now anyway. We don't know whether Pfizer or Merck, etc, have a better chance, or which of those will come out with a blockbuster. But we do feel we have a group of companies bought at a fair price that, overall, will do well and should offer chances for decent profits. These companies are doing very important things. I could not tell you the potential in the pipeline. A group approach makes sense. It is not the way we would go at banks. If you buy pharma at a reasonable multiple, you will probably do okay 5-10 years from now.


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2008 Boodell Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2008

Berkshire has invested in several insurance companies, would you go into the health insurance business?


No. Health insurance is so ingrained into national policy that it is a tough business. I'm not really that excited about it from a business perspective. I don't want to write policies with high loan loss ratios. That being said, I would buy the stock of an undervalued healthcare insurer.


• Source: Q&A with 6 Business Schools

• URL:

• Time: Feb 2009

What do you think of the telecoms industry?


I don't have the faintest idea how to evaluate what telecom companies will look like down the road. I only understand a little of what they do. I suppose if you gave me some information, I could regurgitate it back to you but in terms of understanding their economic characteristics down the road, I don't know. Charlie, what do you know about the telecom business?


[CM: Less than you do.]


I know people will be drinking Coke, using Gillette blades and eating Snickers bars in 10-20 years and have rough idea of how much profit they'll be making. But I don't know anything about telecom.


It doesn't bother me. Somebody will make money on cocoa beans, but not me. I don't worry about what I don't know -- I worry about being sure about what I do know.


[CM: Berkshire in its history has made money betting on sure things.]


We might buy some junk bonds in that business [telecom], and we have, but we expect losses in junk bonds -- though we expect a decent result -- because we're dealing with institutions that have demonstrated problems. In some cases -- not at all with Level 3 -- there are management issues. We expect to have significant losses, and we haven't seen our biggest loss yet, believe me. It's like being an insurer of substandard risks -- you'll have more accidents, but can charge a premium.

我们可能会在通信行业里买入一些垃圾债券,我们确实也买了一些。虽然我希望收益良好,但我们确实面临着损失,因为这个行业确实出现了一些问题。有些公司面临着管理问题--不仅仅是Level 3面临这样的问题(美国一家通信公司)。我们预计将来会面临严重损失,虽然目前还没有,但是肯定会的。就好像是为次标准风险承保一样--你会面临着更多的事故,但是可以溢价收费。

We don't buy businesses in which 15 will be train wrecks and 85 will work out OK.


There are all kinds of businesses where you can't predict what they're going to earn, so we try to favor a few where we can.


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2003 Tilson Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2003

Your opinion on the auto industry?


[GM CEO] Rick Waggoner and [Ford Chairman] Bill Ford have both been handed, by past managers, extremely difficult hands to play. They're not the consequences of their own doing, but they have inherited a legacy cost structure, with contracts put in place decades ago, that make it very difficult for them to be competitive in today's world.

Rick Waggoner(通用汽车CEO)和Bill Ford(福特汽车CEO)都是从上任管理层那儿接手的公司,并且都是极其难管理的。他们接手的不是自己手把手管理的公司,而是继承了遗留下的成本结构,继承了几十年前签下的合同,对于公司而言很难在当今保持竞争力。

GM and Ford don't sign long-term contracts to pay high amounts for steel, but that's what they've done with annuity and healthcare payments to employees. The result is such expenses are far higher than that of competitors, so it's not a fair fight.


GM once had 50% market share, and it's fallen to 25%. Even if it was still 50%, they'd still be in trouble.


I'm not sure what I'd do if I was elected CEO of GM. It reminds me of what Bill Buckley said when asked what he would do if he actually won his race for New York mayor back in 1965 and he said, "The first thing I'd do is ask for a recount." (Laughter) Well, that's what I'd do at GM.

如果我是通用电气的CEO,我也不知道要怎么做。这让我想起1965年时,Bill Buckley被问及如果赢了纽约市长的竞选他会怎么做,他曾经说"第一件事情就是要求重新计数"。我对通用汽车也是一样的。

The UAW says, "We have a contract and we have a deal." GM has set aside $90 billion for pensions and another $20 billion or so for healthcare, yet has a market cap of only $14 billion. That's not sustainable.... Something will have to give.


If a company had to pay an extra $2,000 per car more for steel, everyone would realize there was a crisis and demand a quick solution, but that's not happening.


Part of the problem arose because [the actions of previous managements] bore no accounting consequences. Back in the 1960s, companies didn't have to account for pension costs on an accrual basis, and didn't have to do so for healthcare costs until the late 80s or early 90s. But those costs are very real...


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2005 Tilson Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2005

What are your views on the railroad industry?


I don't think the railroad industry will be a lot more exciting, but the competitive position of the railroads has improved somewhat since 20 years ago. There's been progress on labor issues and an improved competitive position vis-a-vis truckers. Higher oil prices hurt railroads, but hurt truckers more . What was a terrible business 30 years ago, operating under heavy regulation, has become decent and could be better over time. But it will never be a fabulous business - it's too capital intensive.


• Source: BRK Annual Meeting 2007 Tilson Notes

• URL:

• Time: 2007

What industry will be the next growth driver in the 21st century and what do you see that supports that?


We don't worry too much about that. If you'd look at the 1930s, nobody could have predicted how much the automobile and airplane would transform the world. There were 2000 car companies, but now only 3 left in the US and they are hanging on barely. It was tremendous for society, but horrible for investors. Investors would have had to not only identify the right companies, but also identify the right time. The net wealth creation in airlines since Orville Wright has been next to zero. Or look at TV manufacturers. There are hundreds of millions of TV's, RCA & GE used to produce them, but now there are no American manufacturers left.

我们倒是没有过多考虑过这个。如果你回头看看20实际30年代,没人能够预测汽车行业和航空业能改变全世界。当时有2000家汽车公司,但是在美国现在只剩下3家了,并且它们都在垂死挣扎。对于社会来说这个巨大变化,对于投资者而言这简直是噩耗。投资者不仅仅需要去辨识对的公司,还要抓住对的时间。从莱特兄弟之后诞生的航空业,净财富的增长几乎为0。或者看看TV行业,曾经有数不清的电视台,RCA & GE曾经是它们的制造者,但是现在没有几个美国制造商剩下了。

If you want a great business, take Coca-Cola. The product is unchanged, they sell 1.5 billion 8 ounce servings per day 122 years later. They have a moat; if you have a castle, someone's going to come after you.


Gillette accounts for 70% of razor sales at 80% gross margins and it is the same over time. Men don't change much. Shaving might be the only creative thing they do, like painting the Sistine Chapel.


Snickers has been the #1 candy bar for the past 40 years. If you gave me $1 billion to knock off Snickers, I can't do it. That's the test of a good business. You don't knock off Coke or Gilette. Richard Branson is a marketing genius. He came in with Virgin Cola, we're not sure what the name means, perhaps it turns you back into one, but he couldn't knock off Coke. We look for wide moats around great economic castles. Growth is good too, but we prefer strong economics.

士力架居于糖果棒第一的位置已经40年了。如果你现在给我10亿美元去击败士力架,我是做不到的。这种行为是对一个好的行业进行公然挑战,你不可能打败可口可乐和吉列剃须刀。Richard Branson是一位市场销售天才,他当时创造了Virgin Cola(处女可乐),我不知道这个名字意味着什么,可能喝了这个可能能让人变成处子之身吧,但是即便这样他也没能打败掉可口可乐。我们寻找的是拥有很宽的护城河的伟大的企业城堡。增长当然很重要,但是我们还是更喜欢本身就很强大的企业。

• Source: Emory's Goizueta Business School and McCombs School of Business at UT Austin

• URL:

• Time: February 2008



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