Berkshire Hathaway Inc. kicked off its annual meeting on Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska. Warren Buffett, CEO of the company, and Berkshire’s vice chairman discussed a wide range of topics at the opening of the meeting.
Tens of thousands of investors packed an Omaha arena Saturday at Berkshire’s annual meeting that was back in person for the first time since the pandemic began, but the turnout was likely smaller than when it used to regularly attract more than 40,000.
Productive Assets Versus Bitcoin
Buffett said bitcoin is useless.
He prefers productive assets like farmland and apartment buildings.
“If the people in this room owned all of the farmland in the United States and you offered me a 1 percent interest in it … for $25 billion, I will write you a check this afternoon,” he said. “It’s very simple.”
“If you told me you own all the Bitcoin in the world, and you offered it to me for $25 I wouldn’t take it because what would I do with it?” he said.
“That explains the difference between productive assets and something that depends on the next guy paying you more than the last guy got,” he elaborated.
“I got some advice for you too. When you have your own retirement account and your friendly adviser suggests you put all the money in Bitcoin, just say ‘no,’” Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger added.
Inflation ‘Swindles Almost Everybody’
Inflation has surged in the United States, hitting a new 40-year annualized high of 6.6 percent in March, and Federal Reserve policymakers appear set to deliver a series of aggressive interest rate hikes to cool prices.
Buffett said he did not know what level inflation would be in the next month or decade, but that rising prices were having an impact.
“Inflation in our own business, it’s extraordinary how much we’ve seen,” Buffett said. “For two years the prices have kept coming in higher.”
Auto-insurer Geico posted an underwriting loss in the first quarter because loss claims rose as used vehicle prices and parts surged higher.
“Inflation swindles the bond investor … it swindles the person who keeps their cash under their mattress, it swindles almost everybody,” Buffett said.
Inside Berkshire Hathaway’s Portfolio
Buffett gave Berkshire Hathaway investors a few details Saturday about how he spent more than $50 billion earlier this year.
He didn’t reveal everything he bought but did mention several highlights, including boosting Berkshire’s stake in oil giant Chevron to $26 billion, up from $4.5 billion at the beginning of the year, to make it one of the conglomerate’s four biggest investments. Berkshire also spent billions buying up 14 percent of Occidental Petroleum’s shares in the first half of March, and added to its already massive investment in Apple stock.
Buffett also made a big bet on Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard. He said a couple of months after one of Berkshire’s other investment managers bought roughly 15 million Activision shares that he increased that stake to roughly 9.5 percent of the company—or about 74 million shares—after Microsoft announced the deal in January, because Activision stock was selling for less than the $95 per share deal price.
Berkshire’s earnings report shows that its mountain of cash shrank to $106 billion in the first quarter from $147 billion at the beginning of the year as Buffett invested $51 billion in stocks.
Wall Street Runs a Gambling Business
Buffett picked on a favored target, Wall Street, saying the stock market sometimes resembled a casino or gambling partner.
The market is investment-oriented sometimes, but it’s almost totally a casino and gambling parlor at other times.
Wall Street’s gambling “existed to an extraordinary degree in the last couple of years encouraged by Washington money,” he said.
“They don’t make money unless people do things, and they get a piece of them. They make a lot more money when people are gambling than when they are investing. It’s much better to have somebody that’s going to trade 20 times a day, and they’re all excited about just like pulling the handle of a slot machine,” he added.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.