(Bloomberg) — Warren Buffett’s 15-page annual letter to shareholders on Saturday made point out of the pandemic that ravaged the globe in 2020 precisely as soon as: Considered one of his furnishings firms needed to shut for a time due to the virus, the billionaire famous on web page 9.Buffett likewise steered away from politics, regardless of the contested presidential election and riots on the U.S. Capitol, and by no means touched on race or inequality even after protests and unrest broke out in cities throughout the nation final yr. He additionally averted delving into the aggressive deal-making pressures confronted by his conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a subject routinely dissected in previous yr’s letters.“Right here you have got an organization with such a revered chief who’s held in such excessive regard — whose opinion issues, who has companies that had been straight impacted by the pandemic, insurance coverage firms that had been influenced by world warming and social inflation — and there was not one phrase concerning the pandemic,” Cathy Seifert, an analyst at CFRA Analysis, mentioned in a telephone interview. “That to me was hanging. It was tone deaf and it was disappointing.”Buffett, 90, has been unusually quiet since final yr’s annual assembly in Might amid a large number of points going through People. His annual letters are sometimes seen as an opportunity to supply buyers assist in understanding his considering on broad subjects and market developments, along with particulars on how his conglomerate is faring.However the Berkshire chief government officer rigorously weighs his phrases, and a few subjects, such because the pandemic, threat veering into extremely controversial political territory, Jim Shanahan, an analyst at Edward D. Jones & Co., mentioned in an interview.“There’s been a whole lot of feedback concerning the pandemic and the impression on the companies, however by not saying one thing within the letter, I believe it’s only a method to attempt to keep away from saying one thing that might be perceived as a political assertion, which he’s been much less keen to do lately,” Shanahan mentioned.A consultant for Buffett didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark positioned exterior routine workplace hours.Buffett additionally stayed quiet on subjects which might be key to his conglomerate, such because the market atmosphere amid a tumultuous yr — and the work of key investing deputies like Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, in keeping with Cole Smead, whose Smead Capital Administration oversees investments in Berkshire.“There’s extra discovered by what’s not within the letter,” mentioned Smead, the agency’s president and portfolio supervisor. “I believe simply time and time once more on this letter had been sins of omission.”Listed here are different key takeaways from Buffett’s letter and Berkshire’s annual report:1. Buffett Depends on Buybacks As an alternative of DealsBerkshire repurchased a file $24.7 billion of its personal inventory as Buffett struggled to search out higher methods to speculate his monumental pile of money.And there’s extra the place that got here from: The conglomerate has continued to purchase its personal inventory because the finish of final yr, and is more likely to hold at it, Buffett mentioned Saturday in his annual letter.“That motion elevated your possession in all of Berkshire’s companies by 5.2% with out requiring you to a lot as contact your pockets,” Buffett mentioned within the letter, which identified that the corporate “made no sizable acquisitions” in 2020.Berkshire did make a small quantity of progress in paring the money pile, which fell 5% within the fourth quarter to $138.3 billion. Buffett has struggled to maintain tempo with the circulation lately as Berkshire threw off money sooner than he may discover higher-returning property to snap up, resulting in the surge in share repurchases.2. Apple Is as Useful to Berkshire as BNSF RailroadBerkshire’s $120 billion funding in Apple Inc. inventory has develop into so priceless that Buffett locations it in the identical class because the sprawling railroad enterprise he spent a decade constructing.He started constructing a stake within the iPhone maker in 2016, and spent simply $31.1 billion buying all of it. The surge in worth since then locations it among the many firm’s high three property, alongside his insurers and BNSF, the U.S. railroad buy accomplished in 2010, in keeping with the annual letter.“In sure respects, it’s his sort of enterprise,” mentioned James Armstrong, who manages property together with Berkshire shares as president of Henry H. Armstrong Associates. “It’s very a lot model identify, it’s world, it’s a fully addictive product.”Buffett had all the time balked at expertise investments, saying he didn’t perceive the businesses effectively sufficient. However the rise of deputies together with Combs and Weschler has introduced Berkshire deep into the sector. Along with Apple, the conglomerate has constructed up stakes in Amazon.com Inc., cloud-computing firm Snowflake Inc., and Verizon Communications Inc.3. Buffett Concedes Error in $37.2 Billion DealBuffett admitted he made a mistake when he purchased Precision Castparts Corp. 5 years in the past for $37.2 billion.“I paid an excessive amount of for the corporate,” the billionaire investor mentioned Saturday in his annual letter. “Nobody misled me in any means — I used to be just too optimistic about PCC’s normalized revenue potential.”Berkshire took an nearly $11 billion writedown final yr that was largely tied to Precision Castparts, the maker of kit for aerospace and power industries based mostly in Portland, Oregon.The pandemic was the principle offender. Precision Castparts struggled as demand for flights plummeted, prompting airways to park their jets and slash their schedules. Much less flying means decrease demand for alternative elements and new plane. Precision slashed its workforce by about 40% final yr, in keeping with Berkshire’s annual report.4. Revenue Positive aspects Because of Railroad, ManufacturersDespite the pandemic’s results persevering with to hit Berkshire’s assortment of companies, the conglomerate posted a close to 14% acquire in working earnings within the fourth quarter in comparison with the identical interval a yr earlier.That was helped by a file quarter for railroad BNSF since its 2010 buy and probably the greatest quarters for the manufacturing operations since mid-2019.5. Goodbye Omaha, Hey Los AngelesBerkshire’s annual assembly has for years drawn throngs of Buffett followers to Omaha, Nebraska, the place the conglomerate relies. This yr, the present is shifting to the West Coast.Whereas nonetheless digital due to the pandemic, the annual assembly shall be filmed in Los Angeles, the corporate mentioned Saturday.That can convey the occasion nearer to the house of Buffett’s longtime enterprise accomplice, Charlie Munger. Buffett and Munger shall be joined by two key deputies, Greg Abel and Ajit Jain, who can even discipline questions.Buffett and Abel, who lives nearer to Berkshire’s headquarters, final yr confronted “a darkish enviornment, 18,000 empty seats and a digital camera” on the annual assembly, Buffett mentioned in his letter. The 90-year-old billionaire mentioned he expects to do an in-person assembly in 2022.For extra articles like this, please go to us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to remain forward with probably the most trusted enterprise information supply.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.