In his 2012 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letter, Warren Buffett explained why he follows Phil Fisher’s approach to dividends. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
Buffett: Above all, dividend policy should always be clear, consistent and rational. A capricious policy will confuse owners and drive away would-be investors.
Phil Fisher put it wonderfully 54 years ago in Chapter 7 of his Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, a book that ranks behind only The Intelligent Investor and the 1940 edition of Security Analysis in the all-time-best list for the serious investor.
Phil explained that you can successfully run a restaurant that serves hamburgers or, alternatively, one that features Chinese food. But you can’t switch capriciously between the two and retain the fans of either.
Most companies pay consistent dividends, generally trying to increase them annually and cutting them very reluctantly. Our “Big Four” portfolio companies follow this sensible and understandable approach and, in certain cases, also repurchase shares quite aggressively.
We applaud their actions and hope they continue on their present paths. We like increased dividends, and we love repurchases at appropriate prices.
At Berkshire, however, we have consistently followed a different approach that we know has been sensible and that we hope has been made understandable by the paragraphs you have just read.
We will stick with this policy as long as we believe our assumptions about the book-value buildup and the market-price premium seem reasonable.
If the prospects for either factor change materially for the worse, we will reexamine our actions.
You can read the entire letter here:
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