Munger Calls Out Wall Street’s BS Earnings, ‘Wretched Excess’ Threatens Markets
Warren Buffett’s right-hand man and Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chair Charlie Munger doesn’t like where stock markets are heading, and warns investors aren’t being cautious enough.
“In China, … they love to gamble in stocks. This is really stupid. It’s hard to imagine anything dumber than the way the Chinese hold stocks.”
“I think there are lots of troubles coming,” Munger, 96, said during an annual shareholders meeting for the Daily Journal, where he chairs the board. “There’s too much wretched excess.”
Munger and Buffett’s investing philosophy through the years has centered around finding value in the market and sitting on a stock, letting it grow over the years. There are exceptions to this — like dumping IBM and GE in the past few years — but Berkshire has stuck to this strategy for the most part.
Some have called it a detriment as the firm sits on a massive cash hoard of around $128 billion as of November 2019 while it waits for what Buffett has called an “elephant-sized acquisition.” In the meantime, the S&P 500 has surged, gaining almost 30% in 2019.
Munger reiterated Berkshire’s position while pointing out the crazy risks investors are taking on, especially in regard to China and the coronavirus outbreak.
“In China, … they love to gamble in stocks,” Munger said during the interview that was webcast live on CNBC. “This is really stupid. It’s hard to imagine anything dumber than the way the Chinese hold stocks.”
When it comes to business, though, the investing guru thinks China is doing a lot of things right. He believes China, not the U.S., is housing “the strongest companies in the world.”
“I think Chinese companies are stronger than ours and are growing faster,” Munger added.
Turning back to investing and the current state of Wall Street, Munger blasted the rise of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) as a profit metric, using some rather colorful language to call out the measure because unlike standard earnings, it doesn’t show how much a company is actually pulling in.
“I don’t like when investment bankers talk about EBITDA, which I call (BS) earnings,” Munger said. “It’s ridiculous. Think of the basic intellectual dishonesty that comes when you start talking about adjusted EBITDA. You’re almost announcing you’re a flake.”
Munger also thinks the world’s innovation boom will start to wane because so many new inventions have already improved our quality of life, and it can’t go much further in his eyes.
“I do think that my generation had the best of all this technological change,” Munger argued. “I don’t think we’re going to get as much improvement in the future because we’ve gotten so much already.”