Country fair, three-ring circus, town meeting--maybe even a love fest. Indeed, the man himself, Warren Buffett, calls the annual shareholder’s meeting of Berkshire Hathaway “Woodstock For Capitalists”.
Once again, a legion of faithful – and thankful – shareholders were off to see the wizard, or, rather the Oracle of Omaha -- some 25,000 people in all.
From Friday to Sunday, Buffett’s event delivers a blend of homespun wisdom, everyman values and prescient investing analysis. Along with the predictable representation of the company’s financial results, there’s a long question-and-answer portion to the program. At this time of year, Warren Buffett is both chairman and master of ceremonies. (Details of the meeting)
Buffett is also now one of the world’s greatest philanthropists on top of stock pickers, having pledged most of his fortune to charity last year. Talk about profit taking! He also slipped to No. 3 on the Forbes rich list.
This year is a little bit different, of course.
At 76-years old, Buffett’s retirement is a little more imminent. It is well known that he is looking for a successor, but that may not be easy. “There is far more to successful long-term investing than brains and performance that has recently been good,” is how he put it in this year’s annual letter. On Saturday, however, he once again made it clear how much he loves his job.
Before the official start of the meeting, Buffett played the ukulele for the crowd, as he is want to do on this occasion.
This meeting also carries a tinge of controversy. Berkshire is under pressure to divest from PetroChina, because of its alleged links to genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. The company has no plans to do so, but called the conditions "deplorable."
Indeed, shareholders Saturday overwhelmingly rejected a resolution that would require Berkshire to sell its 2.3 billion shares in the company.
This year, there’s also talk again about a share price split. (The stock has never split, but then again why go mess up a good thing?)
Buffet has a knack for finding the overlooked gems -- company's like Israel's Iscar and South Korea's Posco, ConocoPhillips, Johnson & Johnson,Tesco and U.S. Bancorp were all added to the portfolio in 2006.
Berkshire Hathaway had another stellar year in 2006; the A-class rose 23%, once again outperforming the big-three U.S. stock market indices. It is, however, down a fraction so far this year.