Buffett and his $11B mistake: Lessons from a financial guru

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Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, tours the exhibit hall at the company's annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., May 5, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo


  • Warren Buffett acknowledged an $11 billion mistake in the Precision Castparts acquisition.
  • Despite the loss, Buffett maintains his faith in the company’s long-term potential.
  • Precision Castparts continues to expand its workforce and looks to capitalize on future opportunities in the aerospace industry.

Even financial gurus like Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., aren’t immune to making mistakes or making bad investments. Buffett has acknowledged a costly “mistake” that impacted the conglomerate’s finances. Despite earning $42.5 billion in 2020, Buffett revealed in his annual letter to shareholders that the company had incurred a substantial loss of $11 billion due to an ill-fated acquisition.

Although Buffett’s investment philosophy emphasizes long-term value, many of his investments deal with mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and other risky bets. However, Buffett, like any investor, takes his losses, but the gains often pay off in the long run. These strategies are even beginning to be replicated by retail investors on platforms like StartEngine.

The $11 Billion Mistake: Precision Castparts

In 2016, Berkshire Hathaway acquired aerospace manufacturer Precision Castparts Corp. for $32 billion. Buffett acknowledged that his initial optimism clouded his judgment, leading him to overvalue the aerospace manufacturing company.

Buffett took full responsibility for the error, saying:

“I paid too much for the company. No one fooled me in any way, I was just overly optimistic about PCC’s normalized profit potential.”

The adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated the situation, as the aerospace industry faced severe disruptions with reduced air travel. Buffett acknowledged this, stating, “Last year, my miscalculation was exposed by adverse developments throughout the aerospace industry, PCC’s largest source of customers.”

The future of Precision Castparts

Despite the setback, Buffett maintained his faith in Precision Castparts’ long-term prospects, believing it would eventually generate favorable returns.

“However, I was wrong in judging the average future earnings and consequently I was wrong in my calculation of the proper price to pay for the business. PCC is far from my first such mistake. But it’s a big mistake.”

Precision Castparts continues to build its global workforce. The company employed 23,164 workers in 2022, a significant increase from the previous year. While the local workforce in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area stood at approximately 2,700, the company’s presence extends beyond the region as it maintains a global presence.

With a strong foundation, continuous improvements, and long-term industry projections that forecast growth, demand for air travel, and aerospace products, Precision Castparts aspires to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities.