Berkshire Hathaway 2018 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 2

Warren’s outlook for Precision Castparts

Warren Buffett:

OK, Jonathan Brandt.

Jonathan Brandt:

Hi Warren. Hi Charlie. Given the growth in airplane build rates, it seems surprising that Precision Castparts isn’t doing better on the top or bottom line.

I understand the issue with a bumpy transition from old to new programs, but I’ve also heard from industry sources that Precision’s market position is not as strong as it used to be amid intensifying competition and some technological disruption.

What does Precision need to do to solidify and strengthen its preeminent position with its aerospace customers so that it can deliver the growth you expected when Berkshire acquired it?

Warren Buffett:


Jonathan Brandt:

More generally, two years after the acquisition, what is your outlook for that business?

Warren Buffett:

Give me the last part again. The outlook.

Jonathan Brandt:

More generally, two years after the acquisition, what is your updated outlook for that business longer term?

Warren Buffett:

Oh, longer term, I think… and in the reasonably shorter term… it’s a very good business. I mean, you were…

You mentioned aircraft, but we get into other industries. But certainly aircraft’s the most important. You have manufacturers that are very dependent on both the quality of the parts and the promptness of delivery.

You do not want to have an aircraft with 75- or 100- or maybe $200 million and be waiting for a part or something of the sort. So it’s…

Reliability is, both in terms of quality and delivery times and all of that sort of thing, is enormously important. And we get contracts that extend out many years. And sometimes we… I mean, we will get them well before the plane even starts in production. So there’s very long lead times.

And we have found in the last year… found it earlier, but I know of some specific cases in the last year… where other suppliers have failed in their deliveries and then the manufacturers come to us and say, “We would like you to help us out.”

And we say, “Well, we’d be glad to help you out, but we’d like about a five-year contract, if we’re going to do it because we’re just not going to make up for these other guys’ shortfalls periodically.” But that sort of thing has a very long lead time.

The business is a very good business. One thing you will see their earnings charged with is about $400 million… little over $400 million a year… of intangible… nondeductible in that case… amortization of goodwill, which is really… is not an economic cost in my view.

We have a significant amount of that through Berkshire, but by far, the largest amount is related to the Precision acquisition. So whatever you see, you can add about 400 million that in my view is not an economic expense, but the accountants would argue otherwise. But it’s our money, so we’ll take my view. The…

Mark Donegan, who runs that operation, is incredible, and he has been not only… he’s a fabulous manager. I wouldn’t have bought it without him in charge. He also has been very helpful to us in other areas, and he loves to do it. So you can’t beat him, both as a manager in his own operation, but with his devotion to really doing everything that will help Berkshire.

It was… it’s a very good acquisition with very long tails to the products that are being developed.


Charlie Munger:

Well, yeah, I think we’d buy another one just like it tomorrow if we had the chance.

Warren Buffett:

Yeah, that’s the answer.

Man of few words, but he gets the point.

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