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WARREN BUFFETT admitted yesterday that he did "some dumb things" in 2008, as the world's richest investor announced that Berkshire Hathaway, his company, had its worst year on record.
In his annual letter to shareholders, Buffett said his investments lost $11.5 billion last year.
He also offered a gloomy outlook for the year ahead. "The economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 - and for that matter, probably well beyond," Buffett wrote.
The firm was hit by the deteriorating economy, the collapse of the credit markets and share prices and the second-worst hurricane season on record.
Berkshire owns a wide portfolio of companies, including leading American insurers and has stakes in firms such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs and Tesco.
This diversity and Buffett's cautious approach saved the firm from further losses, but he admitted that he contributed to the fall through some "dumb" moves of his own.
The man known as the "Sage of Omaha" said he spectacularly mistimed his purchase of Conoco Phillips stock last year when oil prices were near their peak. They have fallen by $100 a barrel since last July.
"I in no way anticipated the dramatic fall in energy prices that occurred in the last half of the year. I still believe the odds are good that oil sells far higher in the future than the current $40-$50 price. But so far I have been dead wrong," he wrote.
Conoco Phillips shares closed at $37.35 on Friday, less than half the price they fetched last spring and summer when Buffett was buying.
Buffett also said he made a $244m investment in two Irish banks "that appeared cheap to me". At the year end Berkshire wrote down the holdings to their market value of $27