Warren Buffett is coming off of hosting Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting. The Oracle of Omaha was speaking live from the Hollywood Diner on CNBC with Becky Quick from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM EST.
Here are the highlights.
On the European elections and today’s global market sell-off:
“I never complain about buying things cheaper.”
Buffett is building positions in two American stocks.
“If you have a common monetary unit, you need a somewhat common fiscal policy.”
“10 or 20 years from now, Europe will be producing more goods per capita…it isn’t the end of the world.”
On the US:
We addressed out banking system issues three years ago.
“Being able to issue all of your debt in your own currency is an entirely different game.”
On Greece electing neo-Nazi’s to parliament:
Asking people to vote for pain is not a winning campaign strategy.
On attractive acquisitions in Europe:
Berkshire bought a Dutch company last week. Current situation wouldn’t stop Buffett from pursuing a good value.
If you buy an ounce of gold, a hundred years from now you’ll have an ounce of gold. But farmland will produce good for a hundred years and you’ll still have farmland. If you buy the Dow, then you’ll collect dividends for 100 years.
You can knock almost any investment and people won’t be as irate as when you knock gold. This speaks to gold investors’ motivations. “They want people to be as afraid as they are.”
Spoke with Mark Zuckerberg last year.
“An extraordinary business is the hardest one to value.”
On Yahoo CEO’s resume discrepancy:
“It doesn’t sound like an inadvertent error.” “If you can’t trust the people you’re working with, you’ve got a problem.”
On allegation that Walmart was bribing Mexican officials:
When you have 100k+ employees, someone will be doing something wrong.
The size of banks are not the issue, as long as they have sufficient capital levels and are appropriately regulated.
On business and the U.S. economy:
There has been a big deceleration, but there hasn’t been any acceleration either. Is seeing a little pick up in residential construction.
We could have a jolt upward when housing construction comes back.
On the U.S. elections:
Overwhelmingly it will be tied to the economy.
On Romney at Bain: “I have no fault with him as a business person.”
On political atmosphere: Neither side wants to go first.
“I made a mistake on that.” Obviously paid too much.
“They’re some real similarities between the two.” -regarding Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg
“They’re not running their businesses to get rich.”
“Keynes would be proud of us.”
“We should start moving in the other direction.” We should start thinking about bringing down deficits.
On the shareholder’s meeting
“The questions were good… To some extent I will think about addressing next year answers to the kind of questions we get.”
Buffett says he may discuss a logical dividend policy in next year’s Berkshire Hathaway report.
“We’ve done $1,000 of business for every man and woman that attends the meeting.” -on money that Omaha earns from the 35,000 people that come into town for the meeting.
Buffett shares that he got a call from Steve Jobs about what to do with Apple’s excess cash some years ago.
“It’s impossible that Apple will ever find an acquisition that’s in the tens of tens million of dollars. So they either ought to pay dividends or repurchase shares, so I guess they’re going to do both now.”
“We [the board] have spent more time talking about succession than any other topic so far. We’re blessed that we have multiple candidates.”
“When it Rome, you can only do as the Romans do unless it’s the law in the country.” – in response to Joe Kernan’s comment that shareholders may feel more “ambiguous” about Wal-Mart’s bribery scandal in Mexico because of the progress the company made in Mexico.
“We probably have 10-20 people not doing what they’re suppose to be doing at Berkshire. What I hope is that we find out about it and resolve it.”
On flubbing a meeting with Princess Diana:
“In 15 minutes, I had trouble remembering my name, I couldn’t think of what to say, it was a total disaster.”
“A comment she made was that ‘Bill Clinton was the sexiest man alive.'”
On future of car insurance with the advent of Google’s self-driving cars:
“The Google guys come up with a lot of interesting things… If you end up with no accidents, then we will end up with no insurance.”
On hostility within Washington
“Each side’s worried about getting tagged with the unpopular side [of how to fix the economy]… of two sides that are both going to be unpopular.”
To figure out deficit, Simpson-Bowles would be good starting point. Also, “will need everyone on both sides to bend. Everybody knows that, and nobody wants to bend first.”
On Berkshire’s valuation
“Berkshire’s been underpriced sometimes during it’s 45+ years. It’s been overpriced… It’s the nature of stocks. That’s what makes stock investing so wonderful…. I love the fact that Coca Cola gets overpriced and underpriced sometimes… It’s the same with Berkshire.”
When I bought my first stock, we were losing a war to Japan.
“Charlie make me look mealy-mouthed.” -in response to Munger’s comment that civilized people don’t buy gold.
“When a girl hangs up on me, I try again.” -on failed deals
“Retail investor should not pay any attention to the day’s news.”
“I don’t know how to make money in active trading.”
“I’m the highest handicap member of the club. I’m there as part of their outreach.” – On playing golf
“The fact that Princess Di was looking at me and telling me [Bill Clinton] was the sexiest man alive wasn’t exactly comforting to me.”