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Warren Buffett in Milan: High Oil Prices Don't Affect My Investment Decisions

Thursday, 22 May 2008 | 11:43 AM ET

Warren Buffett told reporters in Italy today that the high price of oil doesn't really affect his investment decisions.

In response to a question from CNBC Europe's Anna Martin, Buffett said that while oil does affect his operating businesses, it has a similar effect on his competitors.

"There's a real impact on society, but not much on our investment decisions."

Buffett on Energy's Influence
CNBC Europe's Anna Martin asks Warren Buffett is high energy prices influence his investing decisions.

He joked, however, that he wished he had bought more oil stocks years ago and noted that rail companies do get a competitive advantage over trucking from high energy costs.

A video clip of the oil price question and answer appears to the left.

Berkshire Hathaway has a significant, and profitable, stake in Burlington Northern Santa Fe and also holds Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific shares.

Buffett is wrapping up his four-day European tour with a news conference in Milan. This is his fourth session with reporters in four days and in four cities. He's trying to raise Berkshire Hathaway's profile as a potential buyer among large family-owned European companies.

Buffett's voice is showing some signs of strain. It's a bit scratchier than it was at yesterday's news conference. Presumably, he's been doing a lot of talking as he goes from country to country.

In response to a question on possible mismanagement at Moody's involving erroneous debt ratings, Buffett said that he can't recall ever asking for a management change at one of the marketable securities he owns. But, if Moody's determines that employees did something wrong then "they should go" but he expects the company will do the right thing without pressure from shareholders like Berkshire. (Berkshire owns a large chunk of Moody's stock.)

What makes a good manager? "They all have a passion for what they do. They don't do it for the money." How do you bring that passion to government? Inspirational leaders, and "I hope we have one in the next President of the United States." (Buffett is supporting both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the White House.)

Buffett said that women now have more business opportunities in the United States than in the past, but there's still some ways to go. "Talent is too scarce to put aside half of the population."

Asked what he does in his spare time, Buffett replied that he plays bridge on the computer, roughly 12 hours a week. He joked that he spends more time on a computer than Bill Gates. His online bridge name is T-Bone, and he lists his age as 103 so that people will give him the benefit of the doubt if he does something "dumb."

For photos of Buffett playing his favorite game without a PC at this year's Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, see Warren Buffett Plays Bridge (With an Audience).

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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