Monday, August 16, 2010

2016: "U.S. Facing a `Painful Period' as Debt Is Unwound, Berkshire's Sokol Says" and Fortune's Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about David Sokol article (BRK.B; BRK.A)

We have been using 2014-15 as a fuzzy target for the end of the secular bear market. Some prognosticators say 2015-2020 but we believe there will be a few 'Next Big Thing's' going into commercial production that shorten the timeline a bit. The last secular bear lasted 18 years and elicited this comment from Mr. Sokol's boss:

December 31, 1964: DJIA 874.12
December 31, 1981: DJIA 875.00
"Now I'm known as a long-term investor and a patient guy, but that is not my idea of a big move."
-Warren Buffett
-In this 1999 Fortune article "Mr. Buffett on the Stock Market"
Here's the first headline, from Bloomberg:
The U.S. is facing a “painful period” in the next five years as homeowners and governments unwind debt built up during the housing boom, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s David Sokol said today.

“All of that just feeds into a slow-growth environment,” Sokol, who heads Berkshire’s energy and luxury-flight divisions, said today in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “If we could average 2 percent for the next five years, we’d be pretty happy.”...MORE
And the Fortune story:

Warren Buffett's Mr. Fix-It: Full Version
The day after Lehman collapsed in September 2008, David Sokol noticed that the stock of Constellation Energy, a Baltimore utility, was plummeting. He called his boss, Warren Buffett, and said, "I see an opportunity here." Buffett, who had noticed the same thing, replied after a brief discussion: "Let's go after it."

Constellation (CEG, Fortune 500) held vast amounts of energy futures contracts that had gone sour, and the company appeared to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Sokol, as chairman of the Berkshire subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings, knew the utility industry and saw a chance to buy solid assets at a bargain price. The deal, however, had to be done within 48 hours or the company would have to file for bankruptcy.

Sokol phoned the office of Constellation CEO Mayo Shattuck III, who was in an emergency board meeting. When his assistant answered, Sokol told her he'd like to speak to him. The secretary replied that if she interrupted the meeting, she might lose her job. Sokol replied, "If you don't interrupt the meeting, you might lose your job."

Sokol boarded a Falcon 50EX and sped to Baltimore. He met with Shattuck and struck a deal that evening to buy the company for $4.7 billion, staving off bankruptcy.
Within weeks, before the acquisition was completed, Constellation's board received a competing bid from Électricité de France for about a 30% premium. The board liked the offer, and so did Sokol -- who walked away with a $1.2 billion breakup fee for Berkshire....MUCH MORE

At the time the Constellation deal was announced I said:
Damn those Omaha boys move fast.

*Julian Robertson: US To Face Poor Economy for 10-15 Years (And Warren Buffett Stops By)

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