Berkshire B Class Discount Persists

Published on February 23, 2009

On Friday, February 20, I wrote about the unusually high discount on Berkshire Hathaway B Class shares relative to A Class shares.  It appears that the discount persisted on Monday, February 23 as well but slightly narrowed to just over 32 Bs per 1 A share given the A share closing price of $75,600 and the B share closing price of $2,360. 

There are many theories floating around regarding why this strange anomaly could exist.  After all, any A shareholder could sell each share they own and buy 32 Bs, ending up with a much higher economic interest (albeit with less voting control).  Most ordinary investors (and even some institutions) would logically not place a high premium on voting power considering the fact that it would be very difficult to exert influence given Warren Buffett’s ownership and large following of loyal shareholders. 

If enough A shareholders sell their shares and simultaneously purchase Bs, one would think that the selling pressure would reduce the price of A shares and increase the price of B shares enough to eliminate the arbitrage opportunity.  Why is this not happening?

A participant on a message board that I frequently read pointed out an interesting set of observations posted on the Motley Fool.  I found his theory interesting because it could indicate higher than normal buying demand for the As by someone who cares enough about the higher voting power to pay a significant premium.  Who might care so much about voting control to, in effect, pay a 6% premium?  Could this be a signal that Berkshire is buying back stock?  I suspect we will know the answer on Saturday when the annual report is released.  Stay tuned.

Berkshire B Class Discount Persists