Warren Buffett has held a news conference after arriving in Frankfurt for the first stop of his European tour designed to get on the "radar screen" of family-owned businesses that may want to become part of the Berkshire Hathaway family. In that session with reports this morning, Buffett repeated his intention to look for a company in a business he understands, with a durable competitive advantage and solid management.
Tomorrow (Tuesday), he goes to Lausanne, Switzerland, followed by a visit to Madrid, Spain on Wednesday and Milan, Italy on Thursday.
CNBC and CNBC.com will provide live coverage of Buffett's news conference in Switzerland, tomorrow, Tuesday, at 8:45 am ET.
At a news conference in Frankfurt this morning, Buffett is repeating his intention to look for a company in a business he understands, with a durable competitive advantage and solid management.
He notes that short-term factors in any one nation, such as interest rates, currency rates or economic growth, will not affect his decision on what to buy, if anything. While he'd rather buy a European company when the U.S. dollar is stronger than it is now, its continued weakness won't stop him from buying a "good company at a good price."
While he says there are plenty of opportunities in Europe, he has not identified any particular European company he wants to buy. The purpose of the trip, he says, is to make sure businesses that might feel the need to sell for family or tax reasons know he's around. the advantage of being bought by Berkshire, he says, is that the business will be able to continue to operate as it did while under the family's ownership.
With $35 billion in cash, Berkshire is prepared to make a large acquisition, "the bigger the better," says Buffett. He notes that since he does not have a team of analysts, he handles all of Berkshire's acquisitions on his own, and he doesn't have the time to do lots of smaller deals. Instead, he wants big deals, whether they are in the U.S. or in Europe, or anywhere else in the world. He also notes, however, that he's more likely to find a big company to buy that would "move the needle" at Berkshire in Europe or the U.S. rather than the smaller emerging markets. He wants to "fish in a bigger pond" and Europe is that bigger pond.
Asked if could foresee Berkshire having 50 percent or more of its investments outside the United States, Buffett said that could happen over a matter of several decades, but wouldn't occur anytime soon, due to the continued growth of his U.S. holdings.
Buffett confirms he has ruled out any attempt to buy the insurance unit of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Buffett is not among those who think the worst is over for the credit crunch in the U.S. He says he thinks it's far from over, with more ripple effects to come on the overall American economy. "I think there will be rippling secondary, tertiary effects. It is really more an effect of the residential real estate bubble which led to the credit crunch in some degree."