Even I get things dead wrong on occasion, admits Warren Buffett

World's most famous investor writes to shareholders and owns up to his mistakes

Los Angeles

They call him the "Sage of Omaha", but Warren Buffett doesn't always get things right. Just ask Warren Buffett.

In his annual letter to his shareholders, the world's most famous investor has offered a series of colourful mea culpae for a selection of market predictions which subsequently proved wide of the mark. Or, in his own words, went "dead wrong".

A decision to gamble $2bn (£1.26bn) on a Texan energy company turned out to be "in tennis parlance ... a major unforced error". An investment in ConocoPhillips was "dumb" and, of an ill-fated foray into the textiles industry, he writes merely: "Aaaaaaagh!"

Mr Buffett's frank comments were published on Saturday in his firm Berkshire Hathaway's annual report. They come at a time when he faces widespread scrutiny for endorsing Barack Obama's proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

The letter also comes amid growing interest in Mr Buffett's legacy. At 81, and after almost half a century running the company, his investors have never been more acutely aware of the fact he cannot carry on for ever. With this in mind, Mr Buffett revealed he had identified an (as yet secret) individual, apparently from within the business, to be his successor.

He also reiterated plans to devote his $44bn fortune to good causes, adding that despite his advancing age, he was in "excellent health" and not "going anywhere" if he could help it.

Berkshire Hathaway made $10.3bn in 2011, down from nearly $13bn in 2010. Much of the decline can be blamed on Mr Buffett's insistence a year ago that the US housing market was about to rebound. That prediction was "dead wrong", he admits. However he is adamant that basic laws of supply, demand, and human population growth must eventually lead to a recovery.

Elsewhere, Mr Buffett has become an object of heated public debate after he endorsed raising taxes on the so-called "1 per cent" of wealthiest Americans. He famously pointed out that his earnings were taxed at about 15 per cent, while his secretary paid twice that. As long as this endures, he believes the US will struggle to reduce its deficit. Opponents call that class warfare.

Chris Christie, the Republican Governor of New Jersey, said last week that if Mr Buffett thought he was under-taxed, he should "just write a cheque" to the US government "and shut up".

Bad investments: Buffett's blunders

HOUSING

The blunder: Mr Buffett predicted in last year's letter that the US housing recovery would begin within the next year and help to fuel economic growth.

The explanation: Mr Buffett doesn't mince words and says he was "dead wrong" about this one. But he says basic biology makes it unavoidable that the country will need more houses.

ENERGY

The blunder: Mr Buffett spent about $2bn buying bonds offered by Texas utility Energy Future Holdings. But those bonds are now worth about $878m, and he conceded on Saturday that even that could be wiped out.

The explanation: Mr Buffett comes right out and admits misjudging the company's prospects and the likelihood that natural gas prices would remain depressed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future