When: Today, Thursday, Nov. 4th
Where: CNBC’s “Street Signs”
Following is an unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Julian Robertson, Tiger Management LLC Chairman, today on CNBC’s “Street Signs.” Excerpts of the interview ran in CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
ERIN BURNETT: All right, Julian, thanks so much.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Thank you.
ERIN BURNETT: So, it's a big day, Ben Bernanke's coming out, he says $600 billion more, that puts his total, if I do my math right, at $2.1, $2.2 trillion in quantitative easing.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Think of the printing presses that are gonna have to be manufactured to do all this. It's-- it's really something. And-- something that I think has-- long term ramifications that may not always be great.
ERIN BURNETT: What do you think they're missing? And what are you worried about this causing?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, I'm worried about it eventually causing inflation. And I'm not smart enough to know when that's gonna be. But I don't know-- adhere to all these people who say there's no problem at all about-- printing-- particularly if the economy is weak. I would refer to anybody-- Zimbabwe where it takes about a trillion to buy breakfast. And-- Zimbabwe-- does not have a strong economy by any stretch of the imagination, and-- that's why I keep a little-- little chart of-- Zimbabwe-- currency and--
ERIN BURNETT:You keep it up in your office--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Yeah.
ERIN BURNETT: --you actually have a picture with--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Yeah, I have--
ERIN BURNETT: And it-- that's to remind you that Zimbabwe isn't just an intellectual exercise. I mean, you think that that's a real thing to focus on?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I think it is something to at least consider, rather than just accept the fact that quantitative easing, i.e. printing money is perfectly fine.
ERIN BURNETT: So, the argument people make for quantitative easing is, "Gosh, they've tried everything." But last time, when we first tried it, s-- the S&P went up 75 percent, so maybe it'll make stock prices go up, maybe that will make companies feel better, people feel better, they'll hire, people will buy things. Do you think that that whole argument's crazy?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well-- and there maybe another way of doing it. That may be that we have to do a little personal sacrifice and government sacrifice. And-- I believe that frankly the American people would be willing to do that if asked. And-- I think one of the great problems in the world today is the fact that-- the leaders don't ask.
Right now-- we-- we're-- really in tough shape about-- social security. I mean, can we pay for it? The answer is, we've gotta make some changes if we do pay for it. And everybody knows that, and yet everybody's unwilling to confront that. And-- I would love it if the leadership would confront it and tell the people what we need to do to square away social security so it really is social security.
ERIN BURNETT: Do you think that the-- the elections this week, were the amer-- American public clearly said, "Look, we're-- we're sick of who's been in office now," they made a real switch towards Republicans. Do you think that Republicans are gonna be any more courageous in standing up and addressing social security, addressing-- or having the courage to say, "You've gotta sacrifice."
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I would love to answer that question yes, but no I really don't believe any politicians have that-- sense of courage. And I think that-- that-- probably they need to feel that is an obligation, and they don't feel that it's an obligation. I don't think they will. Thought there were some good things that came out of the election, though-- the-- the turn down of Proposition 23 in California ensures a great environmental-- law that was put in by that state. And-- people had tried to overturn it-- the Kochs and oil companies-- had tried to overturn that-- that law and-- it would've been-- criminal if they had been able to do it.
ERIN BURNETT: At this point, is there any spending that-- that you would support? I-- I know back when the original s-- fiscal stimulus package came out, you weren't a big fan of it, but you wanted more infrastructure spending in it, because you thought that was investing in the future. Given where we are now, would you support borrowing any money, printing any money, whatever way it would be, to put more money into infrastructure or into any kind of economic stimulus?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I-- I would probably support-- l-- anything almost that would-- reduce the-- worry of global warming. 'Cause I think that is still the world's number one problem. It's sort of been forgotten lately, but-- it's going to-- it-- it's gonna show up and-- and it's gonna bite us one of these days.
ERIN BURNETT: Julian, I wanted to play an advertisement for you, if I-- if I could. It-- this is a pretty amazing one, it's actually in Chinese, but for everybody watching, it's gonna have subtitles. So-- let me play it for you and get your reaction. It plays, and so-- so what do you think? Do you think that we're gonna end up working for China? Do you think we really should be worried about China's ownership of American debt?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well-- I-- I'm worried that-- that-- anybody's ownership of American debt. But-- in one sense, I-- I guess I'd rather them own the debt and at least-- have the constraint of us having to pay the debt rather than print the money-- which puts the problem--
ERIN BURNETT: It's a…choice.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, it's-- it's-- it's-- it's-- it's pretty tough. But that ad is-- is-- is a tough ad. But-- and-- and-- I-- I'm kind of pro-Chinese, so I-- but I think it makes you think, and-- I think it's—a…for people to see things like that. Because in a sense-- we are bigger to become indebted to-- other people, which I think is very different from what's ever happened before in this country.
ERIN BURNETT: Well, we-- we-- we did it ourselves. Julian, I know that-- you're f-- you're worried about inflation. Inflation's been a big-- big concern for-- of yours for years. But since we spoke last, we've had $2 trillion in quantitative easing. So, what is your expectation for how bad the inflation problem could be? I know you don't wanna say when it's gonna happen, but how big will the problem be?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, I-- I-- I can't s-- I can't say that. And-- I-- I certainly don't know how long it's going to be before it comes into effect. But-- and-- and-- and-- there gonna be some little mini problems that develop as we go along here. I mean, at some point-- I think before too much longer, the-- currency will begin to weaken considerably if we do this quantitative easing.
And-- if it does-- it's somewhat questionable whether politicians and the people will wanna put up with that. But-- I-- I don't think it's gonna be a smooth trend-- even for a short period of time. I think there are gonna be bumps and grinds along the way. And-- when the inflation takes place-- I just-- I don't know, but I think there is a real threat of it.
ERIN BURNETT: So, where are you-- how-- how are you positioning in advance of that? And I know you have had-- you've-- you've done a lot with bonds, but-- but you're also doing quite-- a bit with currencies and a bit with your view of the U.S. dollar goes down, what goes up?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, that's l-- one of the things that's happened has been that-- people in general-- seem to be perfectly willing to debase their currencies, and there's no penalty for that. We used to have-- kind of a governor of currencies, the Bundesbank. But-- now with the euro, there's nothing quite that strong.
And-- so people are-- are all learning that-- if you cheapen your currency-- you get your economy booming. And they're willing to do that. I don't-- I don't-- I don't know when the-- or-- what the effect of the world wide cheapening of currencies will be. But-- it-- it probably comes back that people will want-- to own things-- other than-- fixed income instruments and-- probably-- in currencies. People will prefer owning commodities and-- gold-- for those things.
ERIN BURNETT: Let's talk about gold, Julian. I know you-- you have not been a believer, but times have changed.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Times have changed, and-- I think-- there-- some awful lot of smart people who are believers. And-- I'm just very lucky in this particular instances that we got-- a wonderful-- man who knows more about gold than I or anybody else-- could possibly know. And-- he-- runs a portfolio-- of-- of-- gold related-- assets. And-- I en-- I entrust this to him. And-- I think-- he's certainly justified it with his performance.
ERIN BURNETT: And that's-- Peter-- Peter Palmedo, right?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Right.
ERIN BURNETT: And he-- but-- but he's doing something different. I mean, a lot of Americans, there's advertisements now, right, buy gold bars. And-- and a lot of people are doing it. But-- but he's actually not doing that, he's doing something different.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: He-- he-- he is buying the companies rather than the-- commodity.
ERIN BURNETT: The miners?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: That's right. The miners rather than the commodities.
ERIN BURNETT: Did you ever think you'd be sitting here saying, "I'm an investor in gold," Julian?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I almost didn't-- hire Peter Palmedo because of that-- because I've never been a believer in gold. But-- I'm sure glad I believed in him and-- and-- the tenets he espouses.
ERIN BURNETT: Let-- let's talk about your-- your stock plays. And Julian, you did really well. You know every year you and I do this, and we track 'em. So you've been-- you've been in Apple, and Apple has done extremely well. In fact, if Apple were in the Dow, we'd be getting back to those-- those all-time highs for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Okay, what do you think of Apple right now?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I think Apple is still-- incredibly-- attractive. They seem to have everything going their way. They seem to be really positioned for the kind of economy we've got. And-- they are-- very reasonably valued. A lotta people weren't around in the '80s where you had-- stocks of Apple's quality and far lower quality-- selling at-- 50 and 60 and 70 times earnings.
And that was true of all sorts of companies, not just electronics, but for instance-- Avon products-- sold in the '50s. And-- Polaroid, no longer existent-- way back there was in the-- in the '50s. And-- there's no reason why Apple-- can't get a multi-- multiple in the 25 to 30 range, which would be a pretty big appreciation for it-- over the next-- 12 months.
ERIN BURNETT: All right, so you're-- you like it then, but big picture, you've got some worries, because, well, everybody knows Apple's a hot stock. I mean, it's sort of become, I'm gonna be honest, it's kind of like a cult these days, Julian.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well that's right. But the-- the-- the-- the-- the one thing I've learned is that-- th-- that don't be frightened of a stock that's been going up. And Apple is so expensive, that de-- that despite the fact that people keep pouring into it-- it doesn't go up wildly. And-- I mean-- 18 or 20 times earnings for maybe the greatest company in the world is, I don't think-- at all high.
ERIN BURNETT: And you've got an iPad?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: And I've got an iPad--
ERIN BURNETT: You're-- you're consu--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: --and I'm tryin' to learn to use it.
ERIN BURNETT: All right-- Julian, I wanted to ask you about-- an issue that I know you-- you hold near and dear. And this is something that you think could be economically transformative for America. So, you're not just upset about quantitative easing. You're not just upset about quantitative easing, you're not upset about all the spending and just complaining, you've come up with a solution. And the solution is to fight fat.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: The-- the--
ERIN BURNETT: Tell me what you mean, how much money you're gonna get for America.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well-- I-- I think the-- the-- the fight against fat is symptomatic of politicians in America. This is an easy problem to solve. We just tax fat, and we tax-- sugar. And then-- then-- then we really fight obesity. By the way-- in 1991-- we had five states wer-- which had in excess of-- 15 percent obesity. Now-- we have, well in-- in-- in 2002-- by that time, all the states were obese.
ERIN BURNETT: Colorado was the last one, right--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Colorado was--
ERIN BURNETT: --to go over.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: --the last one. And-- now, loads of states are 25 to 35 percent obese. It's an epidemic, and it's getting worse by the minute. It's like-- the plague was. And-- we're doing nothing about it. We're scared of the big-- food companies. We're scared of this, that, then the other. But we weren't scared of the big liquor companies, and we weren't scared of the big t-- cigarette companies. And we save millions of lives by acting. And-- we should act on this too.
ERIN BURNETT: And you have a number--
ERIN BURNETT: Julian, we looked up the numbers. In 2010, PepsiCo spent $6 million so far in adverti-- in-- lobbying. Coke, $5 million, Kraft $2.2 million, American Beverage--
ERIN BURNETT: So-- so if we fight obesity, it could be economically transformative. How-- how much?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, the Milken Institute, which I have gotten most of these statistics from estimates that it might be as much as a trillion dollars improvement of GDP. And that comes from so many different sources-- really of course the taxes-- on the particular fats and-- sugars would-- bring in further-- revenues for the government.
But-- they estimate that-- taking obesity back to the 1991 level, which was st-- we were still pretty fat then-- that-- that we would save-- something-- that-- that the GDP would be improved by a trillion dollars, just to get it down to that level.
ERIN BURNETT: That's obviously-- hey, that's the same as quantitative easing. Wouldn't that-- wouldn't that even two million, and you're willing to be, I mean, literally, take this so seriously, is to be the obesity czar?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I-- I would love to be the obesity czar. I mean, I-- I think it would be a fantastic job. I think-- I don't know of a more important one in the United States and one that's simplistic enough to solve.
ERIN BURNETT:You have a business here that has become known for so many names of successful hedge fund managers, people that began with you-- seeded with-- with Tiger money, who have now gone out and become some of the most famous people in the industry. You're in the business of seeding, as you call it. And a lotta people wanna know whether some day soon pension funds, big investors, wealthy individuals are gonna get to come in along side you.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: We-- we-- I-- there-- there-- they can join our funds now. And-- and many of 'em have and I hope more will in the future. And-- we'd be delighted to have them. We have been-- extremely pleased with our funds. Our largest fund-- was-- up-- some-- 26 percent-- between-- in the last 12 months, which I think is pretty good performance. And-- seven of our 13 new funds were up between-- seven and 13 percent-- which is an excellent performance. So this was just so far this year. So we really think we've got a lotta wonderful seeds and-- we would love to show them to anyone interested.
ERIN BURNETT: What about a fund that was invested in all of those funds--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, we are looking--
ERIN BURNETT: --a fund of funds?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: We-- we are-- sort of looking at all of those options, and-- and we really haven't come to any real conclusion on it yet. But-- I suspect something will-- will-- will show up on it some time.
ERIN BURNETT: Something some time?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Yeah.
ERIN BURNETT: All right, well, I guess we'll-- we'll have to wait, but we'll take that as least it's comin'. You're for one tax. One tax that you are-- are-- think the lame duck session should go ahead with, it's the estate tax.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Oh, I'm for the estate tax for sure. I think-- that-- and I'm-- all my friends criticize me for this, but I think-- of all the taxes-- except the obesity tax, that's about as good a way to tax-- as you can get. I mean, it's not gonna cause any-- harm to the economy. And-- I think it's-- ridiculous for big fortunes and people who have been fortunate enough to grow up in our economy and-- amass great wealth-- not to pay back some of it to the-- to the country which gave it to them.
ERIN BURNETT: And your for an estate tax, but you've also chosen to make your own decisions about where you're giving your money away, going along with-- Warren Buffett's hope in giving almost all of your-- your money away before it would ever even get touched by-- touched by that tax.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, that-- that--
ERIN BURNETT: How-- have you made that choice?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I-- I-- I-- I think we have a good-- a good-- staff here that-- is able to find really good places to invest that money. And yes, I do feel that we can do it better than the government can do it. And-- I intend to do that as-- as-- as-- as much as I can. And-- I-- I'm-- I've been doing that for some time.
ERIN BURNETT: One final question. You found the next Bill Gates?
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Oh I don't-- don't-- I-- I-- I have-- I think-- Bill Gates is the greatest-- American of-- the century. And-- I'm very hopeful that Mark Zuckerberg will be a worthy model of Bill Gates. And I would say that at this age in time-- he is going at it in a very good way. And-- I think it gives us all hope to see somebody like Mark Zuckerberg who goes into a place like-- Newark and-- gives 'em 100 million bucks and-- says, "Look, I want this to be a model for-- America and the world." And-- I think-- I think he's-- quite a kid.
ERIN BURNETT: And how-- I know you think he's quite a kid, what about-- what about his business? I Know that one of your funds has been an investor in Facebook.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well--
ERIN BURNETT: I don't-- I know you have an iPad, I don't think you have a Facebook page, Julian, I was just making sure--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: I-- I--
ERIN BURNETT: --but you--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Well, I mean, I wouldn't tell you if I did. But the--
JULIAN ROBERTSON: The-- the-- the f-- the-- look, I am look-- trying hard to-- get rid of my-- reputation which is very just for being-- a mental dwarf when it comes to-- technology. And-- but-- so I'm really not up on Facebook. And-- but I-- I-- I-- I-- I know-- people that are pretty knowledgeable about this area, and they're darn sold on it.
ERIN BURNETT: All right, well, Julian, thanks so much.
JULIAN ROBERTSON: Always a pleasure, thank you.
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