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Warren Buffett Doesn't Expect to Leave Europe With a Deal in His Pocket

Tuesday, 20 May 2008 | 8:47 AM ET

Warren Buffett tells reporters in Switzerland he can "guarantee" he won't buy a European company by the end of his tour this week.

It's another indication his visit is designed to lay the groundwork for potential deals in the future, rather than actually pick up a company on the spot.

Buffett has said he came to Europe to get on the "radar screens" of large family-owned businesses that need to be sold but don't want to change the way they do business.

Buffett's comments came during a news conference at the Lausanne campus of the Swiss business school IMD, during the the second stop of his European shopping tour.

UPDATE: During the session with reporters, Buffett also joked about suing Bill Gates after breaking his toe while visiting the home of his good friend.

Buffett notes that if a family simply wants the highest price for its company they should auction it off. But, if the family wants to keep the business operating without major changes after a sale, then it should consider buying into the Berkshire Hathaway "culture."

Asked how a family-business that wants to sell should contact him, Buffett said he's easy to find and he's "hoping that phone rings." He joked that "you can call collect if you have a good deal."

Buffett says he hasn't given up on the United States, "loves" to buy U.S. businesses, and will probably continue to buy domestic businesses, if only because Berkshire is better known in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. "We don't rule out any countries," Buffett says, but thinks he's more likely to find a company large enough to buy in one of the larger countries.

Asked if he is in Europe due to the weakness of the U.S. dollar, Buffett replied that it is not a major factor, but that he doesn't expect European currencies to depreciate against the dollar over time.

In response to a question about rising commodity prices, Buffett says he thinks the trend will continue, but Berkshire does not have any positions in raw commodities, and probably never will.

Buffett says nothing has changed for him since Forbes put him at the top of its list of the world's richest billionaires. He notes that it will be a "transitory phenomenon" since he's in the process of giving away his fortune to charity.

After the news conference, at 10a ET, Buffett will participate in a IMD webcast titled Lessons from a Legendary Investor: How to grow wealth in a responsible and sustainable manner. He'll be joined by IMD Professor Joachim Schwass and the Chairman of Berkshire's Iscar subsidiary in Israel, Eitan Werthheimer.

This is the second news conference in two days for Buffett. Yesterday, he met with reporters in Frankfurt as he began his 4-day European visit, which is designed to raise Berkshire Hathaway's profile as a potential buyer of large family-owned firms that need a change of control. (See a video clip from the Frankfurt news conference.)

Current Berkshire price:

See Warren Buffett Watch on CNBC's The Call, most weekday mornings at 11:50a ET

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com

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