Published in investments
Tags: Coca-Cola / American Express

Warren Buffett in front of a coca cola logo

I. Introduction

As creative business analysts with a penchant for history, we find ourselves drawn to the captivating tale of Berkshire Hathaway, a company that has time and again demonstrated the power of patience and persistence in investing. In this article, we will explore two of Berkshire's most iconic investments—Coca-Cola and American Express—and uncover the secrets behind their lasting wealth creation.

Berkshire Hathaway, led by the dynamic duo of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, has long been a proponent of value investing. By identifying undervalued businesses with durable competitive advantages and holding onto them for the long haul, Berkshire has built an enviable track record that has made its shareholders exceedingly wealthy.

In the following sections, we will delve into the details of Berkshire Hathaway's investments in Coca-Cola and American Express, revealing how these bets have grown over time and the lessons investors can glean from their successes.

II. The Coca-Cola Investment

Journeying back to August 1994, Berkshire Hathaway embarked on a seven-year quest to acquire the 400 million shares of Coca-Cola it now owns. This monumental investment totaled $1.3 billion, an impressive sum even by today's standards, and a particularly meaningful one for Berkshire at the time.

The fruits of this investment were almost immediate. In 1994, Berkshire received a cash dividend of $75 million from Coca-Cola. Remarkably, as certain as the passage of time, the dividends grew year after year. By 2022, this figure had ballooned to $704 million. The only responsibility Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger had was to cash in Coca-Cola's quarterly dividend checks, which they confidently expect to continue growing.

As of the end of 2022, Berkshire Hathaway's Coca-Cola investment was valued at a staggering $25 billion, illustrating the immense power of long-term compounding and the wisdom behind Berkshire's unwavering commitment to this iconic brand. Numerical facts:

Year Dividends Received
1994 $75 million
2022 $704 million
Investment Valuation
$25 billion

III. The American Express Investment

Akin to the Coca-Cola investment, Berkshire Hathaway's foray into American Express proved to be another masterstroke. The company completed its American Express purchases in 1995, coincidentally incurring the same cost of $1.3 billion.

As time passed, the annual dividends from this investment followed a similar trajectory of growth. In the beginning, Berkshire received $41 million in dividends from American Express. Fast forward to 2022, and this figure had increased to a remarkable $302 million. The checks from American Express also appear highly likely to continue growing, demonstrating the value of investing in strong, durable businesses.

By the end of 2022, Berkshire Hathaway's American Express investment had reached a valuation of $22 billion, further cementing the company's reputation for picking winners in the world of business.

Numerical facts:

Year Dividends Received
1995 $41 million
2022 $302 million
Investment Valuation
$22 billion

IV. The Impact of Successful Long-Term Investments

To truly appreciate the significance of Berkshire Hathaway's investments in Coca-Cola and American Express, let's consider a hypothetical scenario. Imagine if Warren Buffett had made a similarly-sized investment mistake in the 1990s, resulting in a flat-lined investment that merely retained its $1.3 billion value in 2022. An example of such an investment might be a high-grade 30-year bond.

In this case, the underperforming investment would represent an insignificant 0.3% of Berkshire's net worth and provide a stagnant annual income of around $80 million. The stark contrast between this hypothetical scenario and the actual investments in Coca-Cola and American Express highlights the transformative impact that a few successful long-term investments can have on a portfolio.

The lesson for investors is clear: the weeds wither away in significance as the flowers bloom. Over time, it takes just a few winners to work wonders. And, yes, it helps to start early and live into your 90s as well.

V. Key Takeaways for Investors

The extraordinary success stories of Berkshire Hathaway's Coca-Cola and American Express investments offer several valuable insights for investors. Let's recap some of the most important lessons:

  1. The power of dividend growth: A key driver of the wealth created by these investments is the consistent growth in dividends over time. This demonstrates the importance of selecting companies that can sustain and increase dividend payouts in the long run.

  2. The importance of patience in investing: Berkshire Hathaway's unwavering commitment to these investments over the years highlights the value of a long-term perspective in investing. Patience and persistence can yield incredible results as compounding works its magic.

  3. Focusing on high-quality businesses: Both Coca-Cola and American Express are examples of businesses with durable competitive advantages. By concentrating on such companies, investors can build a solid foundation for their portfolios and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

  4. Learning from the legends: The wisdom of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger shines through in these investments. Emulating their approach and drawing on their experience can prove invaluable for investors striving to build lasting wealth.

In conclusion, the remarkable journeys of Berkshire Hathaway's Coca-Cola and American Express investments serve as potent reminders of the power of value investing, the importance of a long-term perspective, and the wisdom of learning from the legends who have traversed this path before us.