Friday, October 10, 2008

Berkshire On Sale?

While on hold with my broker trying to get a options rollout trade placed, I noticed an interesting thing: Berkshire Hathaway, which isn't especially liquid in good times, was on sale. The bid/ask at one point on the B shares was less than a thousand against some six-figure sum apparently designed to catch people who thought they were looking at an A-share quote. As an enterprising investor, I opened an account window where I had money and started entering an order.

While I was entering the order, I saw the bid/ask go to a range close enough to look like trades might occur, and the range went below $3,000.

I feverishly tried entering an order near $3000. By the time I'd clocked to confirm, you'd think this crazy pricing had solved itself. No. The pricing was still reportedly low, but the online trading platform gave me a "not available" error.

Crazy. I kept getting messages like this until the price returned to $3750. At $3750 there is still a good long-term buy in BRK.B, but if day-open prices are going to do this, I'm going to wait for desperate-to-get-liquid sellers at the next open with another order. I want to catch them by surprise.

With Berkshire Hathaway reportedly actually trading some B shares at $3000, I'm unsurprised to see poorly-understood companies like American Capital trading at less than half the last-published net asset value, and offering a dividend about 8% per quarter. The deals are hot!

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