Media Moves

Coverage: What Buffett said at Berkshire annual meeting

May 7, 2018

Posted by Chris Roush

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 6.53.04 PMThe financial news media flocked to Omaha, Nebraska, this past weekend to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting and to hear what billionaire Warren Buffett had to say.

Katherine Chiglinsky and Noah Buhayer of Bloomberg News had the story:

Tens of thousands of investors descended on Omaha, Nebraska, over the weekend to hear him speak about business and the economy at the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the conglomerate he’s been building for five decades. But many also wanted to hear the famous investors take stances on some of the most-divisive issues of the day.

Shareholders asked the 87-year-old billionaire to weigh in on the Trump administration’s trade policies, guns and gender equality. But he mostly skirted controversy, sticking with beliefs that may have surprised some attendees but ultimately won over many.

“There are so many things at Berkshire that could be politicized, and he did a good job of nipping that in the bud,” said David Rolfe, chief investment officer at money manager Wedgewood Partners, which oversees about $4.2 billion and counts Berkshire among its largest holdings. “Everything these days is politicized.”

Companies have long heard demands from activists, but banks and investors are increasingly facing pressure to use their monetary clout to wield power normally afforded to lawmakers. These debates have spurred changes at some large companies, including Bank of America Corp, which decided it would no longer finance makers of assault-style weapons sold to consumers. Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., meanwhile, vowed to limit sales of certain types of firearms, and has even retained a company to lobby Congress on gun control.

Jackie Wattles of reported that Buffett will never purchase Microsoft stock:

Berkshire clearly has an appetite for tech stocks. So why has it never touched Microsoft?

“In the early days, the answer is stupidity,” Buffett responded when asked on Saturday why he never invested in the company.

He also refuses to dive in now because he is close friends with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who still serves on the company’s board.

If Berkshire were to purchase Microsoft shares, and the company were to make a big announcement shortly after that drove the stock price up, it could raise insider trading suspicions, Buffett said.

“I stay away from a few things just totally because the inference would be drawn,” he said.

David Z. Morris of Fortune wrote that Buffett admitted he missed on investing in Amazon and Google:

It’s a mistake he made because he stuck to his longtime investing principles—and that might mean it’s time to update those ideas.

“I had [a] very very very high opinion of [Jeff Bezos’s] ability when I first met him, and I underestimated him,” Buffett said in comments reported by CNBC. “I’ve watched Amazon from the start. I think what Jeff Bezos has done is something close to a miracle . . . the problem is when I think something will be a miracle, I tend not to bet on it.”

Buffett’s own limited technical savvy might have contributed to the missed opportunity. Bill Gates, according to Buffett, had to personally tell him to switch from the creaky Altavista search engine to Google—and Buffett also admitted that “stupidity” kept him from investing in Microsoft early on. In that light, turning away from Google and Amazon reflects the investing philosophy that has been core to Berkshire Hathaway’s epochal success. Buffett has long cautioned investors to only bet on businesses they understand, and he admitted that when it came to Google and Amazon, “it would have been far better obviously if I had some insights into certain businesses.”

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