Billionaire Warren Buffett said on Saturday that Berkshire Hathaway is poised to do well no matter who wins the White House in November, and the billionaire investor defended the performance and tactics of the conglomerate’s several large investments.
Mr Buffett presided over his 51st Berkshire annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, where he and vice chairman Charlie Munger fielded five hours of questions on such matters as Coca-Cola’s sugary drinks, lower shipping volumes on the BNSF railroad, risks from derivatives, and who might succeed Mr Buffett as chief executive.
Berkshire owns close to 90 businesses in energy, insurance, manufacturing, railroad, retail and other sectors, and invests well over $100bn (€87bn) in stocks.
Mr Buffett, a staunch supporter of Democrat Hillary Clinton for president, was asked about the regulatory impact on Berkshire if Republican frontrunner Donald Trump wins the 2016 US presidential election.
“That won’t be the main problem,” he said to audience laughter.
“If either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president, and one of them is very likely to be, I think Berkshire will continue to do fine,” he said.
The meeting filled a downtown arena and overflow rooms.
Mr Buffett suggested that 40,000 people may have shown up for his ‘Woodstock for Capitalists’, close to last year’s record, though the meeting was streamed online for the first time.
At the meeting, Mr Buffett and Mr Munger fielded dozens of questions from shareholders, analysts and journalists.
A shareholder proposal for more disclosures on the risks to Berkshire on climate change was overwhelmingly rejected.
Mr Buffett parried concerns raised by a shareholder, and previously by hedge-fund manager William Ackman, that Berkshire promotes bad health through its roughly 9% in Coca-Cola.
Mr Buffett, who consumes 700 calories of Coke a day, said it seemed wrong to blame calories alone for rising obesity levels.
He also renewed his defence of Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital, which with Berkshire has a controlling stake in food company Kraft Heinz, where it has built on its reputation as a ruthless cost-cutter.
He also emphasised his worry that derivatives could cause major risks for most of the world’s largest banks if markets were disrupted.”
It is still a potential time bomb,” he said, but said he was not in the least troubled by Berkshire’s big stakes in Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
Mark Hughes, a money manager from Ashton, Maryland attending his 25th meeting, said he sees no sign of Mr Buffett and Mr Munger are winding down.
“They’re 85 and 92, and look as good as they ever did,” he said. n Reuters
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved