Thousands of people fill arena to hear from Warren Buffett

Ashley Carr
May 8, 2017

Mr Buffett, 86, said that Berkshire was getting ready for tax cuts promised by President Trump and that he was ready to stump up $15 billion for Kraft Heinz's botched $143 billion Unilever bid.

Berkshire Hathaway has operations ranging from insurance to freight railroads and investments in a host of businesses, including troubled bank Wells Fargo, which has been rocked by a fake accounts scandal.

Buffett said flawed compensation is also a problem for hedge-fund managers, arguing that people would be better off sticking their money in a low-priced index fund.

Buffett also helped finance 3G's merger of the Burger King and Tim Hortons chains to create Restaurant Brands International Inc QSR.TO .

Buffett told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders Saturday that the bank should have done more to correct the problem once it was discovered.

Bogle attended Berkshire's meeting Saturday after Buffett praised him in his annual letter to shareholders this year.

At Berkshire, Buffett says a hotline is his best source of information.

"Berkshire ended March with more than $96 billion of cash and cash-like instruments, and Munger said it could do a "$150 billion" acquisition now if it wanted.

"We should try to hit both objectives, to make sure there is not roadkill and 320 million people get the benefits of free trade", Buffett said.

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If Berkshire does decide to pay dividends, it would have to commit to maintaining that payout over time, Buffett said, as cutting it could have disastrous consequences for the company's share price.

In contrast, the billionaire offered little defense of one major holding of Berkshire: IBM.

"We want you to understand what you own", he said, and "there are just a million things that are of minor importance" at Berkshire, whose market value is about $411 billion.

Buffett said that he 'really underestimated the brilliance of the execution'.

Buffett started the meeting by noting that Berkshire reported far fewer investment gains in the first quarter, which proved a drag on first-quarter results.

Charlie Munger, Berkshire's vice chairman, concurred, saying at the meeting he found no "moral fault" in 3G's approach.

Buffett joked that if Bogle holds out for just a couple more years, he'll be old enough to qualify for an executive job at Berkshire.

Hundreds of shareholders lined up early outside downtown Omaha's CenturyLink Center for the meeting. He said he is open to investing in India and would love to hire people and buy a business in India. "And Apple, I regard them as being in a quite different business".

Other reports by My Hot News

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