What Warren Buffett Said at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting

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About 35,000 people traveled to Nebraska Saturday to hear what Warren Buffett had to say at Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting for 2013.

One of the most notable guests for the Berkshire (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) chief: the ultimate stock market bear, Doug Kass of Seabreeze Partners.

Referring to his out-of-the-ordinary invite, Kass told The Wall Street Journal Buffett is "self-confident, but he's not afraid of a challenge. I believe he enjoys challenges."

Just hours before the crowd gathered, Berkshire reported a 51% jump in Q1 profits. The conglomerate earned $4.89 billion, or $2,977 per Class A share, up from last year's $3.25 billion, or $1,966 a share. Berkshire's insurance arm was a particular bright spot, as was its BNSF railroad.

The company's diversified portfolio, which runs the gamut from banks to cowboy boots to boats to candy, surged to $1.1 billion from $580 million.

Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald cites Buffett's shrewd, yet frugal, investment acumen for Berkshire's success. He also notes that Buffett doesn't let emotions cloud decisions.

"What makes Buffett different is that he constantly hedges his bets, cooperating with the markets when it's prudent to do so, even if it means using specific investment choices like derivates that he dislikes personally," Fitz-Gerald told our Money Map Report subscribers on Monday.

Buffett remains optimistic on equities, and expects markets to move higher over time because, historically, they have. While he harbors mixed feelings about monetary moves from Capitol Hill, he applauds the results of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"There's no question that our business and the U.S. is better off due to the policies of Ben Bernanke. But (low interest rates) won't last forever and it's going to be very interesting when the first sign comes" that interest rate will be moving up again, Buffett told FOX Business Network.

What Warren Buffett Said at the Berkshire Shareholder Meeting

  • Berkshire's Future: Addressing concerns about how his successor will run a diverse Berkshire, Buffett said, "My guess is that my successor will modestly organize things in a slightly different way. But it doesn't change anything. The real money is made by the major businesses." Buffett swiftly added that Berkshire's culture will remain intact.
  • Family Ties: Howard Buffett, in line to take the position of non-executive chairman as part of the succession plan, will safeguard the company's culture, the senior Buffett said of his son.
  • An Enduring Brand: Berkshire is a brand that will outlive his name, Buffett attests, thanks to the company's massive cash stash and practical spending. "Berkshire is the 800 number when there's really panic in the market...I think when you come to a day when the Dow has fallen 1,000 points a day for a couple days and the tide has gone out and you find out who has been swimming naked, those naked swimmers will call Berkshire," Buffett said.
  • Airlines: "It's a labor-intensive, capital-intensive, largely commodity type business, and it has been, as (Legg Mason's) Bill Miller points out, a death trap for investors since Orville (Wright) took off."
  • Newspapers: "We will get a decent rate of return. Our after-tax return, with declining earnings, which I expect, would be at least 10% average...and I think it could be somewhat higher."
  • Carbon Change and Carbon Trading: While he recognizes climate change is real, Buffett said it's a difficult thing for Berkshire's insurance operations to account for. Vice Chairman Charlie Munger added he thinks carbon-trading schemes are impractical. But Munger says higher gas taxes could have an impact, pointing to the steep levies on motor fuel in Europe. "I think the United States should have way higher taxes on motor fuel."
  • Inheritance: Buffett will leave his children well off, but the bulk of his estate will go to charity. Perhaps reflecting on his boyhood days of selling chewing gum door-to-door and delivering newspapers, Buffett said children's behavior is shaped more by how their parents act than the size of their inheritance.
  • Social Media: The sage investor recently joined Twitter. His first tweet was "Warren's in the house." However, Buffett acknowledged he wouldn't make a good Berkshire social media manger. Munger chimed in he detests the idea of his family preserving dumb comments for all eternity.
  • Words of Wisdom: "You just have to avoid getting excited when other people are excited," the often quoted Buffett shared with attendees.

For more on Warren Buffett and his stock picks, check out what's in Berkshire's portfolio.

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