Monday, April 20, 2009

Warren Buffett on Wells Fargo

Fortune had a very interesting interview with Warren Buffett almost exclusively on Wells Fargo. I don't know if he is talking his book or he is right (it would be hard to bet against him). I have never had a long or short position in Wells Fargo in my life so just found the way he looked at banking interesting.

Dick Kovacevich specifically told me to ask you your views on tangible common equity.

What I pay attention to is earning power. Coca-Cola has no tangible common equity. But they've got huge earning power. And Wells ... you can't take away Wells' customer base.


You don't make money on tangible common equity. You make money on the funds that people give you and the difference between the cost of those funds and what you lend them out on.


So what is your metric for valuing a bank?

It's earnings on assets, as long as they're being achieved in a conservative way. But you can't say earnings on assets, because you'll get some guy who's taking all kinds of risks and will look terrific for a while. And you can have off-balance sheet stuff that contributes to earnings but doesn't show up in the assets denominator. So it has to be an intelligent view of the quality of the earnings on assets as well as the quantity of the earnings on assets. But if you're doing it in a sound way, that's what I look at.

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