Thursday, 26 April, 2018

Thousands of people fill arena to hear from Warren Buffett

Orlando Vargas | 07 May, 2017, 12:50

And unlike many companies with massive stockpiles of cash, Berkshire's is mostly stashed in the USA, meaning it could easily be put to work.

Berkshire stressed in its annual report in February that it's willing to exit long-time holdings in its stock portfolio, contrasting that flexibility with Buffett's commitment to permanently hold most companies that he acquires outright. But shareholders would benefit too, especially due to lower taxes on Berkshire's investment gains.

Buffett is a Democrat who vocally supported Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful bid for the presidency against Trump. But he has said Berkshire's long-term performance won't depend on who is president.

Tens of thousands of people gathered to hear Buffett at Berkshire's AGM, while millions tuned in via Yahoo Finance, which livestreamed the event. In reference to Berkshire's acquisition of Precision Castparts, Munger pointed out that "this is no screaming bargain like the old days", and Buffett agreed, saying that compelling bargains are tough to find - hence the stockpile of cash.

The enthusiastic crowd, many of whom stood outside for hours to get prime seats inside the arena, responded to Messrs.

Warren Buffett admits he missed the boat on investing in two of today's most successful tech companies: Google and Amazon. His company also amassed stakes in the four largest US airlines - American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and United Continental Holdings Inc. The proposed resolutions asked for more disclosure on Berkshire's political contributions and methane emissions and for divestment from oil- and gas-related businesses.

Buffett said his federal income taxes would have gone down 17 percent past year if the GOP bill was in effect.

The so-called Woodstock of Capitalism has begun.

While he waits for the right opportunity, Buffett's been buying lots of stocks. "One needs to be very careful of what to incentivise", Buffett said.

The billionaire faced several questions at the gathering about declining employment in the manufacturing sector - a key theme in the recent presidential race - and about job cuts at Kraft Heinz, the food maker backed by Buffett and 3G Capital.

Wells Fargo had a sales structure that clearly led employees to do bad things, according to Buffet.

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Buffett said rising healthcare costs are crippling the competitiveness of USA companies overseas.

Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger will continue answering shareholder questions throughout the day.

As for Wells Fargo, Buffett says he doesn't know what their system was, but "it was a huge, huge error if they were getting some communications and they ignored them". However, the company's revenue rose from previous year.

Former Wells Fargo workers have told NPR that they called the bank's ethics line and the bank did nothing.

"Beyond that, we have to have policies that take care of the people that become the roadkill in the process", Buffett said.

Berkshire said its insurance businesses swung to a $267 million underwriting loss from a year-earlier profit of $213 million.

Mr. Buffett also admitted a mistake of his own.

"As we sit here, somebody is doing something wrong at Berkshire", he said, and the Wells Fargo situation shows the potential "damage" from inaction. He said Friday that Berkshire recently sold off one-third of its 81 million IBM shares because the investment hasn't performed as well as he expected.

Buffett said that in looking back at how IBM thought their business would develop, "what they've run into is some pretty tough competitors". The Republican bill scraps that tax on the wealthy.

"My federal income taxes would have gone down 17%" past year based on the bill that just passed the House of Representatives, he said.

'So it is a huge tax cut for guys like me, ' he said.

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