What's happening at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting 2019
The Q&A at the Berkshire meeting has wrapped up. It's been a long day and Buffett and Munger touched on a lot of important topics. My final two cents?
- Very interesting that Ajit Jain and Greg Abel both stood up to answer questions
- Surprised no one asked Buffett for thoughts on Facebook (FB) as company or stock
- Amazed so many still flock to Omaha when you can watch on Yahoo Finance
And on that note, it's time to head to the airport. Thanks for reading!
Berkshire Hathaway has a lot of competitors. Will Tesla (TSLA) soon be one of them?
Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said during the company's last earnings call that the company plans to offer auto insurance to buyers of its electric cars.
Warren Buffett does not seem too nervous. He joked that insurance companies were as likely to be as successful building cars as auto companies selling insurance.
I’m more concerned about Progressive,” Buffett said.
Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger does not mince words.
When asked by a shareholder about the company's willingness to do more business in China if that country relaxed regulations, Munger pointed out that Berkshire-owned Dairy Queen is already successful there.
And then Munger, a Republican, decided to make a broader comment about US-China relations that could be viewed as a criticism of President Trump's trade policies.
"Think how stupid it would be if the two countries didn’t get along. Stupid on both sides I might add," he said.
Buffett suggested that Berkshire was eager to do more in China as well.
"It's a big market, and we like big markets," he said.
Berkshire Hathaway isn't as well-known in the United Kingdom and Europe as it is in America. And Warren Buffett wants to change that -- despite the uncertainty being created by Brexit.
Buffett responded to a question about the UK by saying he thinks it was probably a mistake for the British people to vote to leave the European Union instead of remain in it. That said, he said he's hoping to do deals in the UK and Europe no matter how Brexit turns out.
"I would like to see Berkshire Hathaway more well known in the UK and Europe," he said, adding that he'd love it if more businesses there would look to Berkshire as a potential buyer of their assets.
Still, as CNN Business' Julia Horowitz notes, investing in the UK may not be the best idea for Berkshire. He's tried before and it hasn't worked out so well. Berkshire's investment in British supermarket chain Tesco was a major flop.
We're back from lunch break here in Omaha and Warren Buffett is continuing to answer questions from shareholders on a variety of topics.
Buffett said he didn't expect any significant changes to flight training in light of two recent fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes. That's important since Berkshire owns stakes in four major US airlines.
Geico vs. Progressive
Buffett also was asked about the competitive battle between Berkshire's (BRKB) Geico and Progressive. That prompted insurance chief Ajit Jain to step up for a second time and address the crowd.
Environmental, social and governance metrics
Buffett was also asked whether or not Berkshire Hathaway would score well on various environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics. Buffett thought they would.
Warren Buffett fielded questions from CNN's Poppy Harlow about Amazon (AMZN), and he described the digital shopping giant as an "absolute miracle" unlike anything else in the corporate world.
The investing guru also jokingly told reporters during the Berkshire (BRKB) annual shareholder meeting that he would get a transfusion of CEO Jeff Bezos' blood if he could.
Bezos "kept looking at what was coming in and saw what was possible, and he's unbelievable," Buffett said.
It was inevitable that someone would ask about a Berkshire (BRKB) succession plan. Warren Buffett will turn 89 in August and Charlie Munger is 95.
So why not invite top Berkshire executives Ajit Jain and Greg Abel as well as portfolio managers Ted Weschler and Todd Combs on stage?
Buffett hinted that Jain, who is in charge of the company's insurance businesses, and Abel, who runs the non-insurance subsidiaries, could one day join him and Munger to answer shareholder questions. (Jain did later answer a question while standing in the audience.)
This format is not set in stone," Buffett said.
He added that he and Munger "won't be around forever."
But Buffett ruled out the possibility of Combs and Weschler answering questions about the stocks they are buying, citing SEC rules about disclosure.
Buffett said "the jury is still out" on the long-term success of Wayfair since it is still losing money even though sales have surged. But it seems like Wayfair may be hurting Berkshire a bit.
The company, which owns Nebraska Furniture Mart, R.C. Willey, Star Furniture and Jordan’s, said Saturday that furnishing sales fell 4% in the first quarter and that pre-tax profits plunged 42%.
But Buffett says Berkshire's furniture companies are up to the challenge. He said Nebraska Furniture Mart is doing a "significant" amount of business from people who buy online and pick up in stores. This so-called click and collect model is one that many food retailers have adopted to combat Amazon.
Warren Buffett was asked about whether Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKB) investing philosophy is changing now that the company has bought a stake in Amazon (AMZN) -- a company with a very high price-to-earnings ratio.
The "Oracle of Omaha" defended the purchase, which he noted was made by one of his two investing lieutenants -- Ted Weschler and Todd Combs. Buffett said that Berkshire is still a value investor.
Interestingly though, Buffett and Charlie Munger both said that one of their biggest regrets was not buying shares of Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL). They said they each saw how great SEO was for Berkshire-owned Geico but that they still didn't buy Google.
Munger joked they were just "sucking their thumbs" and that he feels like a "horse's ass" for not identifying it as a great investment earlier.
"He's saying we blew it," Buffett quipped.