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投资理财

巴菲特投资美国银行:浴缸里萌生的灵感

Shawn Tully 2011年08月31日

首先是美国运通,然后是政府雇员保险公司,现在又加上了美国银行。沃伦•巴菲特回顾了过往经济危机给伯克希尔哈撒韦创造的巨大机遇,如果他判断正确,伯克希尔在美国银行的50亿美元投资有可能成为这家财团历史上前景最光明的交易之一。

    8月24日,也就是上周三早上,在他那红砖白柱的奥马哈宅邸里,沃伦•巴菲特躺在浴缸中揣度自己最成功的几次投资:基础雄厚的公司深陷风暴,舆论沸沸扬扬,投资者纷纷抛售,而他正确地预见到这些公司最终将能渡过危机。一旦它们恢复元气,巴菲特即将数十亿美元收入囊中。躺在浴缸里,巴菲特再次回忆起两笔这样的交易。

    第一次是所谓的色拉油大丑闻(Great Salad-Oil Scandal)。上世纪60年代初,一位大宗商品大亨获取了大量贷款,担保品是大量色拉油,置于美国运通(American Express)位于新泽西州巴约纳的仓库中。事实证明,那些油箱中储存的并非他所说的色拉油,基本上都是水,只有最上面浮着些色拉油以作掩饰。受此拖累,美国运通股价暴跌了50%。巴菲特抓住了这个机会,在五年内将对这家公司的投资增加了五倍。

    第二次危机带来的机会出现在1976年,当时政府雇员保险公司(GEICO)的股价从此前的61美元高位崩盘,一路跌至2美元,原因是这家一度颇为保守的保险公司盲目追求高增长,将保单价格定得太低,而且资金储备不足,以至于迷失了方向。巴菲特再次发现良机,他认为只要政府雇员保险公司的新管理层恢复低成本、低风险战略,它就能重现辉煌。其他股东纷纷逃离时,伯克希尔哈撒韦(Berkshire Hathaway)大举增持,到1996年已经拥有51%股权。同年,伯克希尔又出资23亿美元收购了剩余股权,相当于每股71美元——35倍于危机期间增持的成本,但即使这一价格现在看来也极为划算。

    35年后,巴菲特认为他在一家备受投资者指责的大公司身上再次发现了类似的机会,这就是美国银行(Bank of America)。

    巴菲特当时甚至没有美国银行首席执行官布莱恩•莫伊尼汉的电话号码,因此叫行政助理去打听。当他在曼哈顿市中心以注重环保著称的美国银行大厦与莫伊尼汉会面时,巴菲特提出的交易在股息方面的要求相对较低,强调的是获得认股权证,如果美国银行成功复苏,这些权证将带来巨大利润。凭借为富利波士顿金融公司(FleetBoston Financial)效力的经历,莫伊尼汉本人就是一位经验丰富的交易撮合者,他希望完全保密,拒绝让投行介入,也没有征询副手们的意见,最初只和美国银行董事长、前杜邦(DuPont)首席执行官贺利得探讨过该交易。

    董事会周四早上对该交易进行了电话投票。这笔交易的规模达50亿美元,决策过程却只花了24个小时,这种节奏恐怕只有巴菲特才能做到。伯克希尔哈撒韦将获得每年6%的股息,还有权以7.14美元的价格买入7亿股美银股票,而后者的股价现在已经超过了这个水平。

    Early on Wednesday morning, August 24th, Warren Buffett was soaking in the bathtub at his red-brick, white-columned house in Omaha, musing about how he'd made some of his best buys when investors bailed on solid companies suffering a highly-publicized storm. He correctly predicted they'd work through the trouble, and made billions when they recovered. From the tub, Buffett recalled two such occasions.

    The first was the Great Salad-Oil Scandal. In the early 1960s, a commodities mogul was taking out big loans secured by what he claimed were giant inventories of salad oil stored in warehouses owned by American Express (AXP) in Bayonne, New Jersey. As it turned out, the tanks contained mostly water, with salad oil floating on the top for disguise. Shares of AmEx dropped 50%. Buffett pounced, and multiplied his investment five-fold in five years.

    The second crisis-driven opportunity came in 1976, when the stock of GEICO collapsed to $2 a share from a previous high of $61. The once conservative insurer had lost its way by underpricing its policies in pursuit of reckless growth, and scrimping on reserves. Once again, Buffett reckoned that GEICO would thrive if its new management restored its low-cost, low-risk strategy. Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) boosted its holdings as others fled, and by 1996 had accumulated 51% of its stock. That year, Berkshire purchased the remaining shares at $71 for $2.3 billion -- 35 times what he paid in the crisis, and a price that now looks like a terrific bargain.

    Thirty-five years later, Buffett thought he saw the same pattern in the big company investors reviled more than any other: Bank of America (BAC).

    Buffett didn't even have CEO Brian Moynihan's phone number, and asked his administrative assistant to find it. When he reached Moynihan at the environmentally-friendly Bank of America Tower in midtown Manhattan, Buffett proposed a deal that was relatively light on dividends, and heavy on warrants that would produce enormous gains if BofA recovers. Moynihan, an experienced dealmaker from his days making acquisitions for Fleet, wanted near-total secrecy. He declined to bring in investment bankers, didn't consult with lieutenants, and initially discussed the deal only with his chairman, former DuPont CEO Chad Holliday.

    The board voted by phone early Thursday morning. The $5 billion deal had taken just 24 hours, a pace that could only happen in Buffett-land. Berkshire Hathaway will receive a 6% dividend, and the right to buy 700 million shares at a price of $7.14. BofA's shares are already trading over that level.

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