One of Buffett's longtime habits — investing in companies run by executives he admires — have made Berkshire's portfolio more global.
One example is Buffett's list of investments with pay-TV mogul John Malone. In addition to investing in Malone's Liberty Media, which controls Sirius XM radio and owns the Atlanta Braves, Berkshire holds a position worth about $900 million in Malone's Liberty Global, which sells mostly in Europe. DirecTV is another Malone-backed company, having ended up in the Colorado cable king's stable after he swapped a 16 percent chunk of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for a position in DirecTV that Malone later expanded to a controlling stake. Buffett does have a stake in Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox.
The relationship with Brazil-based 3G Capital and its co-founder Jorge Lemann is another example of Buffett investing through top executives he is confident in.
In an interview with CNBC earlier this year, David Rolfe, chief investment officer of Wedgewood Partners, said "that relationship can be multinational by design." Wedgewood counts Berkshire among its largest holdings. "I think the world is the oyster for 3G and Buffett these days, and if we click forward four to five years, if there isn't a significant acquisition on the international front, all would be concerned."
Rolfe specifically said the expectation will be deals beyond just the Americas. "This is new territory, and the size and scope of what these guys can do is minimum gazelle hunting but also elephant hunting," Rolfe said, referring to Buffett's famous quip that he has his "elephant gun" loaded for acquisitions.
Rolfe said there may be deals where Buffett is primarily serving as a financing arm but also receiving a significant equity component, which has been seen in the Kraft Heinz and Burger King deals overseen by 3G. "3G has global ambitions and incredible access to huge sums of capital that can make quick decisions. It will be interesting in the annals of Berkshire. 3G is a significant chapter," Rolfe said.
Berkshire's utility business owns a U.K-based power-distribution company that generated $1.28 billion of sales last year, and its General Re business is truly global, with 66 percent of sales in its life and health insurance business coming from outside the U.S. Reinsurance is one international focus for Buffett where he has been cutting back significantly on exposure. Buffett told CNBC on Monday that he is selling billions in Munich Re stock, which continues a recent pattern of negativity on the European-based reinsurers. "It's a business whose prospects have turned for the worse, and there's not much we can do about it," Buffett told shareholders at his company's annual meeting in May.
—By Tim Mullaney, special to CNBC.com