This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Warren Buffett does not put a title on his annual letter, but if he did, this year's dispatch might be headlined "God Bless the USA."
In the face of persistent worries about the American economy, the country's most famous and closely followed investor struck a patriotic tone in his report to shareholders of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, writing that "money will always flow toward opportunity, and there is an abundance of that in America."
He also advised Americans to be wary about borrowing money and the games public companies play with profit numbers they report.
Buffett said that Berkshire last year spent more than $5 billion on property and equipment in the United States 90 percent of the company's total expenditure and that the overwhelming part of the company's future investment will be at home.
"Commentators today often talk of 'great uncertainty.' But think back to December 6, 1941, October 18, 1987, and September 10, 2001," Buffett wrote, referring to the days before the Pearl Harbor attack, a stock market crash and terrorist attacks in the U.S. "No matter how serene today may be, tomorrow is always uncertain. Don't let that reality spook you."
He said a housing recovery will likely begin within the next year, which would help the economy and several Berkshire subsidiaries, including ones that make carpets and bricks. The letter was full of good news for Berkshire investors because nearly all of its businesses, except the ones linked to housing, performed well, said Glenn Tongue, a managing partner at T2Partners investment firm.
Dispensing financial observations in a folksy manner, the yearly dispatch from the 80-year-old Buffett has become something of a state of the union address for Wall Street and, more broadly, for the global economy.
But the letter also serves as an update for Buffett's most important constituency the shareholders in Berkshire, an investment holding company that in Utah owns Rocky Mountain Power and home furnishings retailer RC Willey.
Buffett wrote that Berkshire had net income of $13 billion last year, 61 percent higher than in 2009. The company also reported a 13 percent rise in book value.
Shares of Berkshire Hathaway, which peaked in late 2007 at $148,000 apiece, are trading in the $127,550 range. They rose 29 percent in 2010, more than double the performance of the broader stock market.
Though his letter was largely free of negativity, Buffett took a swipe at the hedge fund industry.
"The hedge-fund world has witnessed some terrible behavior by general partners who have received huge payouts on the upside and who then, when bad results occurred, have walked away rich, with their limited partners losing back their earlier gains," he wrote. Buffett devoted part of his message to educating investors on key business principles. Buffett said the financial crisis of 2008 confirmed the dangers of investing with borrowed money because even a short absence of credit can ruin a company.
Buffett also teased his shareholders and Buffett-watchers in writing that he was on the hunt for "more major acquisitions."
"We're prepared," he wrote. "Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy."