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Warren Buffett – What the Tide Revealed

Day 4 of the Warren Buffett European offensive, and expectations of an imminent bid have been managed down. Mr Buffett says he is not stalking targets, he wants companies that meet his criteria to call him. He even gave out his phone number on a number of occasions during the Lausanne press conference.

Warren Buffett
AP
Warren Buffett

He's a man who knows how to charm a room and the European press seem to have overlooked a lack of detail and fallen for him. Such was the frenzy of the press pack waiting to welcome him in Madrid that a drinks waiter who brought his customary coca-cola into the briefing room minutes before the man himself arrived, was set upon by photographers. They soon realized the startled waiter was not Mr Buffett and he was free to pass.

The Spanish press welcomed him with a list of companies that they thought he should take a look at. (Buffett seemed more excited about his meeting with the Spanish King!), whilst the Italians focused on his view of the currency markets. He's no dollar bull, that's for sure.

And that seems to be part of the reason that he is here. He admits that he should have been shopping in Europe earlier, but not just because currencies have moved against him in recent years. He says he likes to look through cycles and won't be drawn on the state of the European economy right now.

On the US he is on safer ground and says the worst of the credit crisis might be over but now we need to focus on the secondary effects on the broader economy. Oil has been in focus this week with new record prices on NYMEX seemingly every day. Mr Buffett plays down the idea that it is speculators who are sending prices higher; it's about supply and demand for the 'sage of Omaha'.

But would he invest in banks? He says banking CEOs need to be Chief Risk Officers and he laments the way that many banks got caught up in products they didn't understand. "You don't know who has been swimming naked until the tide goes out" he has said previously about the sector. "Well the tide's gone out and it's revealed some pretty ugly bodies!" was this week's clarification. Now there's an image!