Owner earnings

January 21st, 2013

Warren Buffett on owner earnings

Warren Buffett has referred to the ‘owner earnings’ of a company as the true measure of earnings. He has defined ‘owner earnings’ as:

Reported earnings + depreciation, ampoule amortization, other non-cash items - average annual amount of capitalized spending on plant, machinery, equipment (and presumably research and development).

Reasoning behind owner earnings

His thinking seems to go like this.


You should not consider depreciation because this is generally a fixed percentage of an amount spent in the past that does not necessarily reflect the true cost of replacing things when they are obsolete.


Buffett has often criticised accounting amortisation of things such as economic goodwill. Economic goodwill, including things such as brand name, reputation, monopolistic or market dominance, might actually increase in value rather than depreciate.

Capital expenditure

It is difficult to estimate true capital spending. Items may be deferred or brought forward. Averaging actual expenditure is a more reliable guide of a company’s true capital needs.

Posted by Julian Livy on January 21st, 2013 | Posted in How Buffett invests |