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Collection: Warren Buffett - #317 'Average Person Buying IPOs Is Going To Get Hurt'



My question to you, sir, is regarding to IPOs. We had one of the authors about a book on yourself visit us in Sydney last year, and apparently you dislike IPOs.

My question is, there are some really poor businesses that try and get passed off, but there are some good ones. There’s some government privatizations, or decentralizations, the demographics of baby boomers, and we have some friends wanted to exit some really good businesses.

Could we as investors, and Berkshire Hathaway, not apply some of your disciplines to look at investing in some of these?

And finally, would your answer be different in its applicability to Berkshire Hathaway as a company, as opposed to us as investors? Thank you, sir.




Well, the first question, is it entirely possible that you could use our mental models to find good things to buy among IPOs? The answer is sure.

There are a zillion IPOs every year. And buried in those IPOs, I’m sure there are a few cinches that a really intelligent person could find and pounce on. So, welcome. On the —

But the average person buying IPOs is going to get creamed.

So if you’re talented enough, why sure, that will work. The second question, I forget.


About the government offering [inaudible].


About government spin-offs?


Give him the spotlight again. There he is.


What was the second question?


It was just would the attitude of Berkshire Hathaway be different if it was opposed to investors? Thank you.


Yeah, because the IPOs are normally small enough, so that they won’t work for us, or they’re high tech, where we couldn’t understand them. And so, by and large, if Warren is looking at them, why, I don’t know about it.


Yeah, I mentioned earlier how you — an auction market, prevailing in the stock market, will offer up extraordinary bargains sometimes, because somebody will sell a half a percent, or one percent of a company at a price that may be a quarter of what it’s worth, whereas in negotiated deals, you don’t get that.

An IPO situation more closely approximates a negotiated deal. I mean, the seller decides when to come to market in most cases. And they don’t pick a time necessarily that’s good for you. So, it has —

I think it’s way less likely that, in scanning a list of a hundred securities that are trading in the auction market, well, in the — a hundred IPOs, if you scan a hundred IPOs, you’re going to come up with something cheaper than scanning a hundred companies that are already trading in the auction market.

It is more of a negotiated sale. And negotiated transactions are very hard to get bargains. If you take the houses in Omaha, you know, somebody that lives next door to somebody who sold their house for 80,000 dollars, and their house is more or less comparable, they’re not going to sell it for 50.

It just doesn’t happen. People are — it’s too important an asset, and they’re cognizant of what it brings — what is being brought for similar properties. That’s what happens in negotiated sales.

Now if, on the other hand, there were some — a whole bunch of entities that owned one percent of each house in Omaha, and you had an auction market on those one percentage points, they might sell at damn near anything. And occasionally, they sell at crazy prices.

So you’re way — in my view — you’re way more likely to get incredible bargains in the — in an auction market. It’s just the nature of things.

And the IPO is closer — sometimes there will be IPOs in terrible markets, and they may come very cheap. But by and large, that is not when IPOs come. They come when the seller thinks that the market is ready for them.

And they come with an informed seller thinking it’s a pretty good time to go public. And, you know, you’ll make better buys, in my view, in an auction market.

Number 8.


~ Please visit the site above for full video of Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.


[YAPSS Takeaway]

1. IPO is more of a negotiated sale and it come when the seller thinks that the market is ready for them. And negotiated transactions are very hard to get bargains.

2. Investing is to take advantage of the mispricing in the market.

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