Another year, another Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting from which legendary CEO & Chairman Warren Buffett emerges victorious.
There was plenty of shareholder enthusiasm coming into the event, fueled by the company’s latest earnings report released last Friday afternoon, the day before the main event.
Robert Hagstrom, chief investment strategist at Legg Mason Investment Counsel, who attends the meeting each year, described the weekend as particularly upbeat and easy, and carried a positive tone.
Buffett started the meeting presenting the quarterly balance sheet, and from there, he and vice chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions with ease.
“Even Doug Kass who was trying to slay the dragon, you’ve got to salute Doug for coming out as a short seller, I don’t think he’s wounded the animal by any stretch of the imagination,” said Hagstrom, from the floor of the exhibit hall just outside the Buffett stage site at the Century Link center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Kass launched questions that few would dare to touch on at such a widely followed event.
The first dealt with the size of Berkshire Hathaway itself and whether profit growth and outpacing the S&P 500 are sustainable moving forward.
“He needs 20 to 25 billion [dollars] now per year just to grow at ten-percent, and those don’t just fall out of the sky, those are big deals that he has to come up with,” says Hagstrom. “And that’s the bear case that Doug has, which is ‘you’re so big, how can you keep growing this thing?’ But Warren came back and said ‘in sideways markets and down markets, we’re going to beat it. In markets that are up 15 to 20-percent we'll lag it, but it's a long-term deal, we still feel comfortable.’”
There’s more from Hagstrom on the key themes of the meeting including Buffett’s bank investments, succession, and why Buffett’s comments on the Fed “really hit home” in the attached video.
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