Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) Chief Executive Warren Buffett will publish his annual letter to shareholders this Saturday, and investors will be looking for any additional hints as to who will succeed the famed investor at the helm of the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate.
For more than five decades, the 87-year-old Buffett has penned an annual letter, reflecting -- often optimistically -- on the U.S. economy and Berkshire's performance. But there were some changes to Berkshire's management team that he could address as well.
In January, Buffett appointed two long-time Berkshire executives, Ajit Jain and Greg Abel, to vice chairmen. Abel, 55, is the vice chair of the non-insurance businesses. He previously served as the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company. Jain, 66, is the vice chair of the insurance operations, which include GEICO and Berkshire Reinsurance, two of the most profitable units of the company, even though they may post a loss due to all the natural disasters that took place in 2017. He joined the Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group since 1986, according to BoardEx, a relationship mapping service of TheStreet Inc.
Buffett described the appointments as "part of a movement to succession over time."
Jain and Abel are logical candidates to succeed Buffett considering their tenure at the company with a market capitalization of $499 billion. The Oracle of Omaha, himself, said that Jain and Abel are "the two key figures at Berkshire."
While Buffett has yet to officially name his successor, some investors and analysts think Abel is the likely pick.
"The most likely successor in our view, who Warren Buffett regularly praises, is Greg Abel," J.P. Morgan analyst Sarah DeWitt said in a September research note. "We think Greg Abel would be a strong allocator of capital and the earning power of the underlying businesses would remain strong after Buffett."
To be sure, Buffett has publicly praised Jain as well. In his 2016 annual letter, Buffett said: "Ajit has created tens of billions of value for Berkshire shareholders. If there were ever to be another Ajit and you could swap me for him, don't hesitate. Make the trade!"
Even though Abel and Jain are both in line to succeed Buffett, he insisted that "there's no horse race at all in these two fellows." Still, his upcoming annual letter could provide more details about the company's future and its revamped management team. Buffett could also provide additional commentary on the recent U.S. tax overhaul and more information on the company's efforts with Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) to develop a healthcare company aimed at combating higher costs.Along with the annual letter, Berkshire will report year-end results. Revenue for the fourth-quarter is expected to be about $59 billion, according to analysts surveyed by FactSet.
Berkshire Class A shares rose about 0.2% to $302,042.97 at 3:30 p.m. EST Thursday. The stock has risen about 19% year over year. Meanwhile, Berkshire Class B shares were holding relatively flat at $200.92; the stock has climbed 22.5% over the past year.