Warren Buffett to CNBC: I Would Have Voted Against Kraft-Cadbury Deal
Warren Buffett tells CNBC in a live interview on Squawk Boxthis morning that he has "a lot of doubts" about Kraft's planned purchase of Cadburyand that he "feels poorer" in the wake of the deal.
The deal does not need to be approved by shareholders, but "If I had a chance to vote on this, I'd vote no."
Kraft shares are down over two percent in pre-market trading on his comments. Current price:
Despite his criticism, Buffett rejected Joe Kernen's suggestion that he show his displeasure by selling Berkshire's stake of over 9 percent in Kraft. That, he says, would be too expensive because Kraft's stock is still "undervalued" but not as undervalued as it was three weeks ago.
Buffett also strongly criticized Kraft's recent sale of a pizza business to Nestle at a price he believes was too low.
But he says Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld is a "good operator" and a "good person." He has "cordial relations" with her despite their "difference of opinion."
He thinks "deal momentum" fueled by the investment bankers may have helped push the Kraft-Cadbury deal forward.
Will Buffett become a more activist shareholder in the future? He says no, he's getting it out of his system now.
On the economy, he says Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries have shed around 25,000 jobs in the last 12 to 18 months, and won't be rehiring "until orders start coming in."
And he thinks "you're not going to have people feeling good until jobs come back," although "a lot of the housing crisis is behind us."
While the economy remains Buffett's biggest concern, he again repeated his long-held belief that it will rebound strongly over a period of years.
He repeats his belief that its better to hold stocks than cash or bonds.
Buffett also tells us the proposed 50-for-1 stock split of Berkshire Hathaway's Class B shares does not mean he's changing his mind on all his other long-held beliefs.
Buffett had consistently rejected a stock split, but says today that it was a "simple" decision to make because it will facilitate Berkshire's planned acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Buffett says the split "makes sense" and he's confident he has the votes to win shareholder approval of the move.
He still doesn't like the idea of stock splits and issuing new shares, but feels it's necessary for the Burlington deal which will bring a "great long-term asset" to Berkshire. He enjoys the stock moves "as much as I enjoy preparing for a colonoscopy."
Asked about the announcement yesterday by Korean steelmaker POSCO that Buffett told its CEO he will raise Berkshire's stake in the company, Buffett says he has no immediate plans to buy and agreed with Becky that his comments may have been "lost in translation."
Buffett doesn't approve of President Obama's proposed tax on banksto help pay for the government's bailout of financial firms. He thinks its not fair for banks that have already paid back the government's investment in them to be forced to make up Washington's losses on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
He does think the U.S. government should not backstop investment banks such as Goldman Sachs .
Buffett thinks "the banks are cleaning up their own mess," and many aren't making "obscene profits," despite popular concceptions. But he does have a problem with CEOs getting big pay packages when they leave a bank that needed to be bailed out by the government. Instead, he says, the CEO should "essentially be wiped out."
Buffett again endorses the job Ben Bernanke has done as Federal Reserve Chairman, calling for the Senate to confirm him and joking that there would be a big market stock selloff if Bernanke does not win Congressional approval.
Current stock prices:
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Berkshire Class B:
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