Warren Buffett always says that he's ready to buy a good company at a good price at any time.
In his 2011 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Buffett got some headlines when he wrote, "We will need both good performance from our current businesses and more major acquisitions. We're prepared. Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy."
At that time, Berkshire had $38 billion in cash. Today it has $40 billion in ammunition.
During his interview with Becky Quick on CNBC's Squawk Box today, Buffett again expressed interest in using some of that money to make a big deal.
Here's what he told us:
BECKY QUICK: How much cash do you have on hand right now?
WARREN BUFFETT: We probably have at least 40 billion.
BECKY: Are you in the hunt--on the hunt for another big acquisition?
BUFFETT: I'm salivating, yeah. A fellow handed me a card last night and he said, `This will cost you 6 billion.' And he didn't give me the financials, but I'm going to call him when I get--I know the company so when I get home I'll call him and I'll ask him for the financials and...
BECKY: What--have you looked at any other big acquisitions?
BUFFETT: We had two acquisitions this year, possibilities, that were plus and minus 20 billion and where the CEO wanted to do it but it didn't get done. Prices are tough.
BECKY: Prices are tough right now.
BECKY: All right. We're going to...
BUFFETT: And cheap money makes that--that's a factor in there.
BECKY: And, Warren, you were just talking about how you've been on the prowl looking for big acquisitions around 20 billion or so. A couple of them have fallen through, but part of it is because pricing is so difficult right now. It's...
BUFFETT: Pricing's difficult and money's cheap so...
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BUFFETT: ...we don't leverage our purchases so we're buying on an all equity basis. But people who do leverage are getting significant portions of the purchase price at very, very low rates, probably as low as they've ever gotten. So that enables them to bid pretty aggressively. And it doesn't factor into our thinking.
BECKY: But you think at this point maybe some of these acquisition prices are getting a little out of control?
BUFFETT: Well, that's the way I feel but, you know, that'd be--that's natural when you're getting beaten out.
BECKY: But you won't raise your prices to compete.
BUFFETT: No. No. We--but--now we've had a record for bolt-on acquisitions. We've probably done, I don't know, maybe 15 different acquisitions, but they probably only add up to maybe $2 billion or something of the sort. And they're good and they fit in with the companies we have, but what I really like is the elephant.
BECKY: So you're always out elephant hunting...
BECKY: ...with your elephant gun?
BUFFETT: Yeah, yeah.
BECKY: Can you...
BUFFETT: And they're more likely to come along when either money conditions are fairly tight or something of the sort because if you can borrow money at these rates, you can pay a lot of money, and, you know, and other people, if they pay the wrong price, they walk away from them, but if we pay the wrong price, we live with them forever.
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BECKY: So if these deals haven't gone through, that means you've been looking more aggressively for stocks to buy in the market and as a result, you've got more cash to do that?
BUFFETT: Well, we're always looking for stocks, and I've got two fellows that are working for me that are really looking for stocks all the time. And--but I usually end up buying more of something I already know. Any new company, any new stock I look at, I measure it against the best idea I've got among the present ones. And I'm perfectly willing to just keep adding to the present ones. So it has to beat them. And I know those companies pretty well so it's a pretty high threshold.
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