When Warren Buffett Made a Mistake and Lost $11 Billion In a Single Deal

When Warren Buffett Made a Mistake and Lost $11 Billion In a Single Deal
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Alex Wong Staff

Warren Buffett, the renowned CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is widely regarded as a financial guru with a remarkable track record. However, even the best investors are not immune to making mistakes or bad investments. Buffett recently acknowledged a costly "mistake" that had a significant impact on the financials of his conglomerate.

Despite earning an impressive $42.5 billion in 2020, Buffett revealed in his annual letter to shareholders that the company incurred a substantial loss of $11 billion due to an ill-fated acquisition.

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In 2016, Berkshire Hathaway made a significant move by acquiring Precision Castparts Corp. (PCC), a renowned aerospace manufacturing company, for a remarkable sum of $32 billion. However, Buffett acknowledged his own overconfidence, which resulted in an inflated valuation of the company.

Reflecting on the situation, Buffett admitted, "I made an error in judgment by being overly optimistic about PCC's potential for generating profits. No one deliberately deceived me - it was simply my own excessive optimism at play."

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Source: GettyImages | Scott Olson  Staff
Source: GettyImages | Scott Olson Staff

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Assuming complete accountability for the blunder, Buffett forthrightly acknowledged his misassessment. He sincerely expressed, "I made a mistake by misjudging the expected future earnings and, as a result, miscalculated the appropriate price for acquiring the business."

Source: GettyImages | Eric Francis  Stringer
Source: GettyImages | Eric Francis Stringer

The adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the situation for Precision Castparts. With reduced air travel and major disruptions in the aerospace industry, the company faced significant challenges. Buffett acknowledged in his letter that his miscalculation was laid bare by adverse developments throughout the industry, as PCC's most important source of customers was directly affected.

Despite the setback, in his letter to the shareholders, Buffett maintained his faith in the long-term prospects of Precision Castparts. He firmly believed that, over time, the company would yield favorable returns. Buffett's investment philosophy has always emphasized long-term value, and he continued to trust in the underlying strength of PCC despite the current difficulties.

Source: GettyImages | Lukas Schulze  Stringer
Source: GettyImages | Lukas Schulze Stringer

Precision Castparts has continued to build its global workforce, demonstrating its commitment to growth. In 2022, the company employed 23,164 workers, a substantial increase from the previous year. While the local workforce in the Portland, Oregon, metro area stood at approximately 2,700, the company's presence extends far beyond the region. With a global footprint, Precision Castparts aims to leverage its strong foundation, ongoing improvements, and long-term industry forecasts projecting growth and demand for air travel and aerospace products.

Source: GettyImages | Eric Francis  Stringer
Source: GettyImages | Eric Francis Stringer


Despite the challenges faced by Precision Castparts, the company remains resilient and determined to overcome obstacles. The aerospace industry is poised for recovery and growth as air travel demand gradually rebounds. Precision Castparts is well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities that lie ahead. With a strategic focus on innovation, operational excellence, and meeting the evolving needs of the industry, the company aims to turn the tide and emerge stronger.

Source: GettyImages | Mario Tama  Staff
Source: GettyImages | Mario Tama Staff


Warren Buffett's costly mistake with Precision Castparts serves as a valuable lesson in investing and overvaluation. Even seasoned investors can make errors, emphasizing the importance of humility, accountability, and the ability to learn from past misjudgments.


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