10 pearls of wisdom from Warren Buffet’s annual shareholders’ meeting

It’s the weekend they call Woodstock for Capitalists – the annual general meeting of Warren Buffett’s investment giant Berkshire Hathaway.

While the entire weekend is a celebration of all things Buffett, the centrepiece of the event is a five hour question-and-answer session with Buffett and his right-hand-man, Charlie Munger.

Buffett fields questions on everything from the economy to investment strategies and his health, and there are always a few great quotes to get investors and entrepreneurs thinking.

Here are 10 snippets from the Berkshire meeting:

On why he’s ready for the next big deal

“We’re as interested as ever… I would love it if, Monday morning, my phone rings with some big deal… If I get a call for a $US10 billion deal on Monday, and I like it, I will say yes.”

On why Goldman Sachs did nothing wrong

Goldman Sachs has come under fire from US regulators for not explaining to the buyers of one of its sub-prime mortgage securities that hedge fund investor John Paulson was actively betting against the security. But Buffett says every investor needs to make their own decisions.

“If they told me (Federal Reserve Chairman) Ben Bernanke was on the other side of the trade, it wouldn’t make a difference to me… For the life of me, I don’t see how it makes any difference whether it was (hedge fund manager) John Paulson on the other side of the deal, or whether it was Goldman Sachs on the other side of the deal, or whether it was Berkshire Hathaway on the other side of the deal.”

On why he loves Berkshire’s big investment in Goldman

“Our preferred shares are paying $15 a second, so as we sit here, ‘tick, tick, tick, tick,’ that’s $15 every second… Recent developments have probably delayed the calling of our preferred for some time, so ‘tick, tick, tick’ will go on, and we’ll be getting $500 million a year… We love the investment.”

On fixing problem companies

“Get it right, get it out, get it fast and get it over.”

On the Greek debt crisis

“I really don’t know how this movie ends, and I try not to go to movies like that… This will be high drama, in my view.”

On why he’s not worried about succession

“If I die tonight, there will be a new CEO in place in 24 hours. Investors don’t need anything done next week. I can go on vacation. They could wait a month, they could wait two months… I did just have a physical. It came out fine.”

On the trouble with economic stimulus measures

“They may well have been the correct responses, but we may find that weaning ourselves from the medicine is harder than solving the original (problem).”

On the outlook for currency investments

“Based on what I see happening around the world, currencies are a poorer bet than they have been for some time. If inflation ever really gets in the saddle it gets very unpredictable. Faith in institutions can break down.”

On Berkshire Hathaway starting to re-hire of slashing jobs last year

“We will hire people when we have something for them to do… Significant unemployment (is) not going to go away fast, although it is going to go away.”

On judging his performance

“I like to look in the mirror and say enough of my shareholders love me.”


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