Last weekend I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting.
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The event, known as the “Woodstock of Capitalism,” hosted an estimated 40,000 investors from all over the world who traveled to hear Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger speak on not only the current state of Berkshire Hathaway, but also on topics such as the broader stock market, the economy, politics and life.
And as a Daily Edge subscriber, you have the inside scoop on my most important takeaways.
No Word On A Successor
Although he is surely still mentally sharp now, Mr. Buffett turns 88 years old in August, which makes him the oldest CEO in the United States.
Naturally, this has made the question of who will succeed Warren Buffett as CEO a hot topic among investors and analysts.
However, this week those questions were not put to rest. Warren and Charlie deflected the question multiple times in favor of a more PC approach — reminding investors that Berkshire’s reputation speaks for itself, and that Berkshire will still be the first call for companies looking to make a deal, whether Warren and Charlie are at the helm or not.
As of now, the two likely candidates are Greg Abel and Ajit Jain — two recently promoted to vice chairmen that now oversee about half of Berkshire’s operating companies.
Warren Buffett Hates Gold
Did you know that $10,000 invested in the S&P 500 in 1942 would be worth approximately $51 million today?
While over the same time period, $10,000 worth of gold — which would have equaled roughly 300 ounces in 1942 — would be worth just $400,000.
This was the scenario Warren used to argue in favor of holding stocks — rather than gold — over the long-term.
“While the businesses were reinvesting in more plants and new inventions came along, you would look into your safety deposit box, and you’d have your 300 ounces of gold. And you would look at it, and you could fondle it, I mean, whatever you wanted to do with it. But it didn’t produce anything. It was never going to produce anything,” Buffett said.
In contrast, “a bet on stocks is basically a bet on America,” he added. “All you had to do was figure that America was going to do well over time.”
Warren Buffett On The Importance Of Patience
Mr. Buffett began the event on Saturday with a personal account of his first investment. The year was 1942 and he spent $120 — his entire savings at the time — to buy 3 shares of Cities Services preferred stock.
After stomaching the losses when shares initially plunged below $30, the stock made a comeback and young Warren was able to sell his entire stake for a $15 gain.
However, this was just the start of a long upswing for the stock, which eventually got called for over $200 per share. This taught Warren the valuable lesson of patience earlier in his investing career…
Wells Fargo Will Come Out Better
Wells Fargo was a popular topic after regulators and whistle-blowers revealed employees were creating fake accounts with real customer data, charging excess mortgage fees and forcing customers to buy unnecessary insurance.
This has led to the resignation of CEO John Stumpf and penalties by the Fed barring Wells Fargo from future growth.
However, Warren Buffett was adamant that companies emerge from situations like this stronger than they went in.
“All the big banks have had troubles of one sort or another and I see no reason why Wells Fargo as a company, from both an investment standpoint and a moral standpoint going forward, is in any way inferior to the other big banks with which it competes,” Buffett said.
Wells Fargo (WFC) stock still sits near its 2 year low.
Thoughts On A Trade War
“It’s just too big and too obvious, the benefits are huge and the world’s dependent on it in a major way for its progress that two intelligent countries will do something extremely foolish,” Buffett said on Saturday.
“There will be some jocking back and forth and there will be some things that will make some unhappy,” but in the end Warren was adamant that this will not escalate into an all-out trade war.
And that’s coming from a man whose company owns dozens of businesses that rely on China for materials…
In addition, if you’re looking to put some money to work, Charlie Munger says to look no further than our adversary in the trade war.
“Americans are missing China because they think it’s too hard and too far,” Charlie said on Saturday. These comments were followed up on CNBC earlier this morning where he said, “The best companies in China are cheaper than the best companies in the United States,” and that his family is already “substantially” invested in China.