由《财富》杂志（Fortune ）和笔者共同发行的巴菲特《跳着踢踏舞去上班》（Tap Dancing To Work）一书介绍了伯克希尔回购股票的历史。巴菲特曾在1999年表示，有时候自己也会错过回购的机会。他还表示，回购的决定可能会弄巧成拙。也就是说，他只是宣布伯克希尔将回购股票，这个消息就会推动公司股票上涨，结果导致回购价格超出伯克希尔的预期。
Berkshire Hathaway bought an "elephant" Wednesday, and the price of the company's A stock jumped by 2.5% to $134,200 as the market applauded the news.
This elephant was a different breed from the corporate kind chairman and CEO Warren Buffett has been stalking. Instead, Berkshire announced that itbought $1.2 billion of its own stockfrom the estate of a long-time shareholder.
This is by far the largest amount of its own stock the company has ever bought.
The price, too -- $131,000 per Class A share -- was a mindbender. It is about 118% of Berkshire's book value at the end of the third quarter and a slightly lower percentage of what book value can be estimated to have grown to by now. So perhaps $131,000 is 115% of what book value per share now is.
What's startling about even 115% is that Berkshire had made a new offer in September 2011 to buy its own stock at prices up to 110% of book value -- but no higher.
What appears to have changed? Berkshire (BRKA) stock owned by a large estate came up for sale, and Buffett decided the chance to buy a huge chunk of stock -- 9,200 Class A shares -- was worth the price. The seller, meanwhile, probably decided a one-lump sale was superior to dribbling stock into the market.
Berkshire did not announce the identity of the estate. There will be speculation about who it was, of course, but there are so many under-the-radar holders of big amounts of Berkshire stock that the quest will not be easy.
Berkshire said in its announcement that, besides buying this block of stock, it was simultaneously raising its limits on the price it would pay for its own shares to 120% of book value.
Today's moves will please the many Berkshire shareholders who believe the company's stock is undervalued and have wanted Buffett to pay up. Questions about why he doesn't buy more aggressively are a perennial at Berkshire's annual meeting.
The Buffett book that Fortune and I have just released, Tap Dancing To Work, gives the history of Berkshire's buying in its own stock. Buffett said on an occasion in 1999 that he had sometimes "erred" in not buying in stock and has also said that a decision to buy is likely to be self-defeating. That is, his mere announcement that Berkshire would buy has the effect of sending the stock up -- to a price that exceeds what Berkshire would pay..