Prominent American businessman Warren Buffett criticized Wall Street, while praising his company, Berkshire Hathaway, for maintaining large cash after buying tens of billions of shares and companies in March.
Buffett, 91, the company’s chairman and CEO, and his deputy, Charlie Manger, 98, answered questions he received during the company’s first non-virtual annual meeting since 2019, which was held in a plaza in downtown Omaha, Nebraska, USA. They were also joined by Vice President Greg Appel, who was named CEO to succeed Buffett.
The meeting came after Berkshire revealed that it raised more than $51 billion in shares in the first quarter, including a larger stake in Chevron Corp., while for the time being stopped buying buybacks in relation to the shares it owns.
Berkshire also announced that operating profit did not change much in the first quarter as many companies were able to increase revenue despite supply chain disruptions caused by the mutated Omicron strain of the Corona virus and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
* “I think we are sane”
In his annual letter to shareholders in February, Buffett lamented the lack of investment opportunities.
That prompted a shareholder to ask what had changed in March, when Berkshire bought 14.6 percent of Occidental Petroleum and agreed to pay $11.6 billion to insurance company Allegheny Corp.
Buffett responded by saying it was simple, explaining that he became interested in Occidental after reading an analyst’s report and Allegheny after a letter he received from its CEO.
“The markets go crazy, and sometimes Berkshire gets a chance to do something…not because we’re smart…I think we’re sane,” he said.
Berkshire’s cash flow fell to about $106 billion from about $147 billion during the first quarter, but Buffett said it was important to keep enough on hand.
“We will always have a lot of money… It’s like oxygen is there all the time, but if it disappears for a few minutes, it’s all over.”
Buffett, as he has done before, criticized Wall Street, saying that the stock market is sometimes like a casino. “It’s been happening exceptionally for two years…with Wall Street’s encouragement,” he added.