Warren Buffett on Goldman, His Holdings & What to Expect from Berkshire’s Annual Meeting

FOX Business Network’s Liz Claman sat down with Warren Buffett ahead of the Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa) (BRKb) Annual Meeting, which officially kicks off Friday evening for shareholders at Borsheims Jewelry store, which is part of the Berkshire family.

Claman talks to the Oracle of Omaha about Goldman (GS), his holdings, and what to expect from the meeting.

Here is the transcript of the interview : Courtesy of FOX Business Network

CLAMAN: Most people, if they had 40,000 people dropping in to see them the next day would be nervous and their office is preparing. What do you do to prepare for this big event?

BUFFETT: I do nothing and Charlie does nothing. I mean, we see each other as we — we’ll have lunch tomorrow for all the managers, but we do no preparation. No, a lot of work is done, obviously, logistically, but we don’t do anything.

CLAMAN: In fact, you’re here playing bridge.

BUFFETT: Yeah, I’m going to play bridge for the next three hours, maybe three and a half hours.

CLAMAN: You’re not stressed out–

BUFFETT: No.

CLAMAN: — that this could be a record-breaking crowd this time starting tomorrow?

BUFFETT: I’d be stressed out if it wasn’t a record-breaking crowd. No, this is fun. I mean, these are people in the meeting, they are our partners, they come from all over the world and I love it.

CLAMAN: What is the latest RSVP tally for the numbers?

BUFFETT: Well, we received a request for 116,000 tickets, but there is a lot of people that get it just to shop and they don’t come from (inaudible). So my guess is we’ll have close to 40,000.

CLAMAN: Not 40,000?

BUFFETT: Well, I don’t know. And the truth is, we’ll never know in the end because they come and go. It’s real hard to keep track.

CLAMAN: But a record crowd?

BUFFETT: Oh, no question about that. There were 12 people here in 1981.

(LAUGHTER)

CLAMAN: Yes, you’ve grown.

BUFFETT: Yes.

CLAMAN: A lot of businesses would love to see that. Tell us, though, what you’re looking at as far as the locations, the corners of the world from where they come?

BUFFETT: Well, we’ve got — we’ve got 80 or 90 from Sweden. We’ve got 28 from Turkey. We have 60 or 70 from Singapore. They are from all over the world. I mean, I don’t know whether there’s 40 countries or 50. And the people that send in for tickets from outside the United
States, they all show up.

CLAMAN: And they come to shop, and you’re giving a lot of discounts from Omaha-based businesses as well. Nebraska Furniture Mart, Borsheim’s. How obsessively do you check the sales numbers throughout the week (ph)?

BUFFETT: Every night. On Tuesday night, I can tell you, at the Furniture Mart on Tuesday, we did 5.2 million of business. Now, on a normal Tuesday, we do 700,000. So it was 5.2 million, which was up 54 percent from a year ago. We will break all the records this year. If you talk to anybody who’s in the furniture business, 5 million is a big month. And we did it on Tuesday.

CLAMAN: And you did it in one day.

BUFFETT: Yes, absolutely.

CLAMAN: That’s exactly what we were hearing, that the Furniture Mart was doing well. What a difference a year makes. That certainly feels like a different tone in this market.

BUFFETT: What a difference a year makes, yes. And we have seen in all our businesses a big upswing starting in March. It was creeping up a little until then, but in March, around the world, we saw real — a real change. Mostly in the United States and Asia Pacific, but Europe
not as much, but in our Iscar business, for example, every day we’re getting orders in terms of small tools that are getting used (ph) — I mean, nobody is buying those for speculation or anything. So we really have our finger on what’s going on firmly.

CLAMAN: Now, people will be asking you questions. You never know the questions in advance at the meeting. Is it fair to say that you’ll be asked quite a bit about the economy?

BUFFETT: Well, I expect it, but I really don’t know the questions. And half of them are sent to the journalists ahead of time, half of them come from the audience. We let them draw things out of a hat or something to see who’s on there. So we can get asked anything, and believe it, that makes it more fun.

CLAMAN: Yes, I would think so. So you’re ready for questions about Goldman Sachs, about derivatives?

BUFFETT: Right. You name it. Anything except my diet. I refuse to talk about that.

(LAUGHTER)

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