Thousands of people fill arena to hear from Warren Buffett

08 May, 2017, 13:55 | Author: Celia Hoffman

Last year, Buffett said CNBC - cyber, nuclear, biological and chemical attacks - posed a major threat to the economic well-being of Berkshire shareholders.

Buffett is the celebrity that everyone wants to get close to at the meeting. "In any other field, it would just blow your mind".

Steve Wallman, a money manager based in Middleton, Wisconsin, who's been attending the meetings for more than three decades, said the remarks illustrated how Buffett and Munger are "fallible, thoughtful, and aware of how much the world has changed".

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

"They actually have to do something", Buffett said.

The annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska attracts investors from all over the world, some of whom own only a single share in Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's conglomerate holding company, according to the Financial Times. That kept Berkshire from losing money in the dot-com stock bubble that burst in 2000, but it also meant missing the chance to invest in Google. "But, you know, if you ask me in retrospect, 'What was our worst mistake in the tech field?' I think we were smart enough to figure out Google". It was the slowest quarter of growth since the first quarter of 2014.

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Buffett also admitted he was wrong to think International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) "would do better" six years ago, when he started amassing an 81 million share stake. He argued that the American Health Care Act, which passed the House this past week, amounted to "a huge tax cut for guys like me". "And when there's a tax cut, either the deficit goes up or they get the taxes from somebody else".

Buffett emphasized the need for competitiveness in trade, which he called "enormously beneficial to both the US and the world" by providing necessities to millions of people at a lower cost.

Trump's proposed tax plan is expected to cut corporate tax to 15 percent - "to the benefit of shareholders" as Buffett put it - and the new Republican healthcare bill would also repeal most of the taxes that paid for the Obamacare, or as it is formally known, the Affordable Care Act.

And this year, those who made the trek heard Buffett on Saturday criticize the Trump administration's health care overhaul as a giveaway to wealthy individuals like himself, and heard him rebuke the previous management of Wells Fargo, of which Berkshire is one of the biggest shareholders. However, he said the USA must do more to help Americans who lose their jobs to overseas competition and technology, saying, "Nobody should be roadkill".

Information for this article was contributed by Noah Buhayar, Laura J. Keller, Jordyn Holman and Katherine Chiglinsky of Bloomberg News; and by Josh Funk of The Associated Press.

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