We know Buffett's Berkshire doesn't pay dividends. But Berkshire owns many companies that pay dividends, say Wells Fargo and BofA. If one day, BRK decides to pay dividend, would their yield be around weighted average of owned companies' yield (more or less at that range)? In general, how is holding companies' dividend yield is calculated from their investment?


1 Answer 1


My answer isn’t really “quant”.

I don’t think that “there is a way” to do it. The board of directors has to decide on the dividend as well as the amount of the dividends. So this hypothetical number can be anywhere between 0 and (almost) the company’s earnings.

For a company like Berkshire, incomes can come from underlying holdings’ dividends as you notice, but could also as a result of selling companies as well as from short-term investments and loans (as an example, I believe that they invest cash, which is currently a substential amount of there portfolio, in short term treasuries).

Be also careful because Berkshire often gets “preferred shares” and other very special and rewarding deals. So the dividends they perceive is usually higher than that of the common stocks of the underlying companies in that holding.

I am not an expert in accounting standards, I recommend that you read the fillings as well as the annual report. It should give you a clear view about the earnings.

However, as long as Warren and Charlie will be in charge, I doubt that they will give any dividend because they rightfully believe that they can do better than others with it. If they would give a dividend, my opinion is that it would really signify that there are no good opportunities for value in the market (even considering buying back there own stock) and that cash has become a liability (could be the case if negative rates were to come in the US, Warren has discussed that about insurance companies that they own in Europe where rates are negative and they don’t know what to do with that excess cash).

  • $\begingroup$ alright, fair. Likely current Berkshire management won't issue dividends. Seems next generation management may follow the same practice too. Berkshire is a special case because their holding structure is so complicated. I was hoping to get an idea on simpler holding structures. But thanks for the input. $\endgroup$
    – user42742
    Sep 27, 2019 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ Even for simpler cases, there is no general rule about how much dividend they should redistribute. It is simply a decision of the board. $\endgroup$
    – raptor22
    Sep 27, 2019 at 21:26

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