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Prem Watsa's 2013 Letter to Fairfax Shareholders

March 08, 2014 | About:

To Our Shareholders:

Last year we told you that we had an excellent year building intrinsic value even though it was not obvious in the numbers. This year was even better but it was completely masked by hedging losses and unrealized mark to market losses caused by fluctuations in the market price of our investments. Our insurance and reinsurance companies had an outstanding year in 2013 with a combined ratio of 92.7% with excellent reserving and a record underwriting profit of $440 million. We also realized $1.4 billion of net gains from our investment portfolio (predominantly from our common stock portfolio). Excluding all hedging losses and before mark to market fluctuations in our investment portfolio, we earned $1.9 billion in pre-tax income. Including all hedging losses and mark to market fluctuations in our investment portfolio, we reported a $565 million after-tax loss for 2013. We expect the unrealized mark to market losses to reverse in the future (as of February 28, 2014, we had an unrealized mark to market gain in our investment portfolio of more than $1 billion – after tax, this would have eliminated our net loss in 2013). The table below shows all this clearly:

So all in, the result was a net loss of $565 million and a 7.8% decrease in book value (adjusted for the $10 per share dividend paid) to $339 per share. Since we began 28 years ago in 1985, our compound annual growth in book value per share has been 21.3%, while our common stock price has compounded at 19.0% annually.

While going through our past Annual Reports (a dangerous exercise), some of you long term investors may remember that we first entered the reinsurance business through the purchase of a tiny company called Sphere Re. That experience, and the purchase of Skandia in 1996, made us remark that the reinsurance business is particularly leveraged to a ‘‘few good men and women at the top’’. We saw that again in spades in 2013 as Brian Young and his team at OdysseyRe had the best combined ratio in the company’s history at 84.0%. In fact, we have more than made up for the 116.7% in the catastrophe-ravaged year of 2011. The average combined ratio for the past three years, including 2011, is 95.5%, with very conservative reserving. So a big round of applause for Brian and OdysseyRe, which accounts for almost half our business. I discussed OdysseyRe in last year’s Annual Report and called it ‘‘the jewel in our crown’’ – well, the jewel was shining a little brighter in 2013!

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Rating: 4.5/5 (11 votes)

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Comments

asawhneyy
Asawhneyy - 4 months ago

This Buffet(Buffet of Canada) is bearish. The Buffet of USA is bullish on America. What a Contrast?

Prem has some ideas but Warren is always right,he stayed away dot com era and he was right.

quixote1
Quixote1 premium member - 4 months ago

If loosing 565 million was excelent....then what it will be when he makes a profit?

Awesome................and this is why Buffett doesn´t hedge.

Cowboy77
Cowboy77 - 4 months ago

Buffet was right because about 9 or 10 of his companies got bailed out which saved his butt.

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