Bruce Berkowitz & Bill Ackman: Summary of Their Harbor Investment Conference Talk ~ market folly

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bruce Berkowitz & Bill Ackman: Summary of Their Harbor Investment Conference Talk

We're continuing our focus on the recent Harbor Investment Conference that took place late last week and wanted to point out a discussion between Fairholme Capital's Bruce Berkowitz and Pershing Square Capital Management's Bill Ackman. The two interviewed each other on their respective investments.

Below courtesy of our friends at is a guest post summarizing the managers' talk at the Harbor Investment Conference:

"Berkowitz of Fairholme Capital, was interviewed by Bill Ackman, the conference's Co-Chair, and he discussed why he's been long Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) and Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE: LUK) for a long time. He bought both of them around 1985, for similar reasons. He liked the company's management, and he specifically liked Berkshire because he said that Warren Buffett was a "smart guy" who ran other people's money. He paid about $2,700 per share for each A share he owns.

Ackman of Pershing Square Capital, asked what Berkowitz's biggest investment error was of his career. Berkowitz responded by saying that his biggest mistake was trusting management, and not verifying them. He said that in order to verify management, you have to try to prove them wrong, and kill their thesis.

He also discussed some of his better investments, like Imperial Metals, which Berkowitz said he has no idea why it's doing well, it just is. He discussed his position in Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and said that he really likes the banks now. He believes we are rebuilding now, and a lot of banks are trading below book value, with low valuations, and said that the worse the bank was perceived, the better it will probably wind up being. He owns positions in Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), Regions Financial (NYSE: RF), AIG (NYSE: AIG), CIT Group (NYSE: CIT), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Citigroup (NYSE: C) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) in the financial sector. Berkowitz said there is a black box risk to owning banks, but after three years, you can get an idea of who's going to do well. Berkowitz said he would own more of Goldman Sachs if he could, but as a mutual fund, he's forbidden by law.

Regarding AIG, he said that AIG is more respected in Asia than it is here, and he sees tremendous value in the company's remaining assets, which it has so many of. Berkowitz said that former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg was a serial acquirer of assets, and there is tremendous value still there. He said that the current AIG is trading below book value, and it's trading at a single digit P/E. A major reason why he likes AIG is the company won't have to pay taxes for quite some time, as the company lost over $100 billion in market cap."

To read about the rest of Ackman and Berkowitz's talk, we highly recommend heading to the full summary at Benzinga here.

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