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Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Follow the highlights of Berkshire Hathaway‘s annual meeting here. Warren Buffett is set to comment on the coronavirus, the state of the American economy and whether he sees any value in the sell-off. The 89-year-old “Oracle of Omaha” will be joined at the virtual meeting with Vice Chairman of Non-Insurance Operations Greg Abel. The pair will answer shareholder questions from CNBC’s Becky Quick. CNBC’s and The New York Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin , along with financial journalist Carol Loomis, will also ask questions.
5:10 pm: Buffett: Economy faces ‘extraordinary’ range of outcomes, but nothing can stop America
Buffett struck a cautious tone when discussing the U.S. economy at the start of the meeting, warning that the possibilities “are still extraordinarily wide” given the coronavirus crisis. But he then went on to reiterate his longtime belief that America will overcome even the most daunting challenges, including the current global pandemic.
“In 2008 and 2009 our economic train went off the tracks, and there were some reasons why the roadbed was weak in terms of the banks. This time we just pulled the train of the tracks and put it on a siding. And I don’t really know of any parallel — in terms of a very, very well the most important country in the world, most productive, huge population — in effect sidelining its economy and its workforce.”
“But even facing that, I would like to talk to you about the economic future of the country. Because I remain convinced, as I have — I was convinced of this in World War II, I was convinced of it during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11, the Financial Crisis — that nothing can basically stop America.” – Franck
5:02 pm: Buffett says he owes a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Fauci
Warren Buffett thanked White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci for educating and informing him and the country of coronavirus developments, saying he owes a “huge debt of gratitude” to him. Buffett said the country is “very, very fortunate” to have Fauci who communicates in a “very straightforward manner” about the global health crisis. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the leading public health expert on President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force.–Li
4:45 pm: The meeting begins
Buffett begins talking with Abel at another table to his side. Buffett has his beloved Coca-Cola next to him in a glass.
4:45 pm: Greg Abel to take the stage with Warren Buffett
Alongside Buffett on the stage answering shareholders’ questions will be Greg Abel, Berkshire’s vice chairman of non-insurance operations. Abel, who joined the conglomerate in 1992, was promoted to his post in 2018. Prior to that, he served as Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s chairman and CEO. Abel, now 57, is seen as a top contender to succeed Buffett, who is 89 years old. At Berkshire’s annual meeting last year, Buffett hinted that Abel and Ajit Jain, who handles all insurance-related operations, could be possible successors. Both Abel and Ajit answered some shareholder questions last year. –Li
4:40 pm: Buffett has doubled the stock market’s return
Despite short-term fluctuations, Warren Buffett’s long-term track record is why this meeting is such a big annual event for investors. Berkshire Hathaway A shares have returned nearly 21% annually since 1976, more than double the return of the S&P 500’s 10% return over the same time, according to FactSet. Over the last year, Berkshire has lost 15%, compared to the S&P 500’s 1% loss. Berkshire’s heavy investments in banking and insurance has hurt it during this dramatic economic slowdown. -Melloy
4:39 pm: What to expect from Berkshire’s first virtual annual meeting
This year’s Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting, which will be held virtually for the first time, comes at a critical juncture for the conglomerate. Shareholders want more clarity on the company’s leadership as Greg Abel shares the stage with Warren Buffett. They also want insight on Buffett’s plans regarding the company’s massive cash pile. Berkshire Hathaway has more than $137 billion in cash through the end of the first quarter and shareholders wonder if the “Oracle of Omaha” has found any attractive investments since the coronavirus pandemic sparked a global market sell-off. —Imbert
4:28 pm: Berkshire reports net loss of $50 billion
Berkshire Hathaway reported a net loss of nearly $50 billion for the first quarter earlier Saturday as the conglomerate’s stock investments took a massive hit amid the coronavirus outbreak. But this quarterly result is deceiving as Berkshire owns more stock investments than other companies that fluctuate. Accounting rules require the company to report unrealized losses in equities, so this loss is a reflection of the coronavirus stock market rout. Berkshire’s operating earnings actually rose to $5.9 billion from $5.6 billion in the same period a year ago. —Imbert
4:00 pm: Buffett hunkering down?
Going by the company’s first-quarter 10-Q filing, it appears Buffett was not chomping at the bit to buy more stock or companies outright during the coronavirus market rout. The filing revealed Berkshire had a record $137 billion in cash and equivalent instruments on its balance sheet at the end of the first quarter, up from about $127 billion at the end of the year. Also, the company spent just $1.8 billion buying stocks and just $1.7 billion repurchasing Berkshire Hathaway shares. It will be interesting to see if Buffett is in fact waiting for more clarity that the economy is not going through a more lasting setback because of the pandemic. —Melloy
–With reporting by John Melloy
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