Friday, 03 July, 2020

Warren Buffett says people who lose their jobs have become 'roadkill'

Debra Rodriguez | 14 May, 2017, 00:44

Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, speaks to media when viewing an exhibition of goods he invested during the annual stockholders meeting in Omaha, the United States on May 6, 2017.

"It's intrinsically a unsafe kind of activity, but that's one of its attractions", Munger said on Saturday at Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire's annual meeting, highlighting the judgement of Buffett and his reinsurance deputy, Ajit Jain.

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.

The annual meeting is the main event of a weekend of events that Buffett calls "Woodstock for Capitalists". "The CEO has to act", Buffett said. "I did not think [CEO Jeff Bezos] could succeed on the scale he has", Buffett said, adding that he "really underestimated the brilliance of the execution".

"I thought it would do much better", Buffett admitted.

"I was too dumb to realize". Had the new law been in effect, Buffett said his taxes would have gone down 17 percent a year ago.

Buffett was joined by his longtime business partner, Charles Munger, who said both political parties - Republicans and Democrats - were facing great difficulty in thinking rationally about the issue at hand because they "hate each other so much". Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance launched two insurance policies that cover cyber liability and the costs incurred to respond to a data breach or threat.

"Berkshire in fact ended March with more than $96 billion of cash and cash-like instruments, and Vice chair Charlie Munger said it could do a "$US150 billion" acquisition now if it wanted.

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Apple, which Buffett bought a stake in previous year, accounts for about 5.5% of Berkshire's portfolio.

The billionaire faced several questions at the gathering about declining employment in the manufacturing sector - a key theme in the recent presidential race - and about job cuts at Kraft Heinz, the food maker backed by Buffett and 3G Capital.

Vice chairman Munger reminded the meeting "you've got to remember railroads were a bad business for decades and decades and decades, and then they got good".

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

Warren Buffett likened unemployed workers to animals that are helpless to avoid auto crashes, and said the US must do more to help those displaced by competition from overseas and technology.

Dozens of companies Berkshire owns set up booths in an adjoining 18,580m2 exhibit hall to sell their products and take questions about their businesses.

"I was impressed with Jeff early".

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