CARL: ...teasing some investors, as some said, about your appetite for acquisitions. One of the— one of the immediate follow-ups for a lot of investors is, `Well, if he's so ready what's holding him back?' And with the cash levels that you have, some read into that, that at these levels, these multiples, Buffett's simply not interested. He wants things to really go on sale. Is that a coded message that you think stocks need to come down in order for you to buy?
BUFFETT: No, but it makes it easier if they would come by— come down. But it— we're looking— you know, as I said, we're looking for elephants. Well, for one thing, there aren't very many elephants out there, and all of the elephants don't want to go in my zoo either, you know. So I have to find an elephant that thinks being in the Omaha zoo is, you know, the greatest thing there is in life, which of course it is. And then I have to have a feasible price for it, and obviously, the lower stock prices are, generally the more chance of that happening will be.
But, you know, it's going to be rare that we're going to find something selling in the tens of billions of dollars where I understand the business, where the management wants to join up with Berkshire, where the price makes the deal feasible. But it will happen from time to time, and it'll happen more often when stocks are depressed than where they're buoyant. But I don't— we are not— even though stocks have gone up close to double from where we were here two years ago, stocks were really cheap then, and we talked about it then. Now, that, you know, people were scared but they— stocks were cheap. They're not as cheap now as they were then. But compared to most assets, they look attractive. And so it is not the level of the stock market that's scaring me off, it does make it more difficult to make deals now than it would have been two years ago. But we only need one.
JOE: Do we— do we still have more time, Beck, or do we got to— do you know? For this...
BECKY: I know they want to go to a break in just a minute to come back, but we're going to continue this conversation because this is obviously pretty fertile ground.
BECKY: A lot of our viewers have questions about this, and I know, Joe, Carl and I have quite a few questions, too.
JOE: Yeah, I want to ask him just a quick— a follow-up, too, on...
JOE: ...because, yeah, let's just wait and I'll ask him a follow-up to. Because you do get paid back with your investments in dollars. And if those dollars are, you know, are going to be worth much less in the future then I figure you must— you must figure policymakers are going to get it together eventually, Warren, or else, you know, paper money's not going to be worth anything.
BUFFETT: Well, but that's true of— if you're— if you're trained to be a lawyer or you're trained to be on cable or anything else you're going to get paid in dollars. Now, the question is, if you have something valuable to offer even if the dollar gets worth less, you will retain earning power that's commensurate with purchasing power.
BUFFETT: And if— I mean, Coca-Cola, the— in the year since I've— was born the dollar has depreciated 94 percent. I mean, it's 16-for-1 in terms of inflation. But if you owned Coca-Cola in 1930, you've still done pretty well. Or if you owned a lot of good business in 1930. Because they have the ability to extract real earnings in terms of what they deliver to people. And your doctor is able to charge 16 times as much as in 1930 because his services are still as valuable. So, as the currency gets worth less, it does not make— it does not penalize the service or the good that is really needed by other people. The world adapts.
BUFFETT: And that's why I like businesses or I like my own earning power as the best assets in a time of inflation. They really can't be taken away.
BECKY: Warren, you started talking about how your— you've got an itchy trigger finger. I even saw you kind of moving your finger around like you're ready to shoot something. Do you have any irons in the fire right now?
BUFFETT: We had an iron in the fire that got taken out of the fire just a day or two ago, which did— a deal that did not— somebody else beat us out on it. And I've always got a gleam in my eye, you know. I'm always looking at the girl, but the girl may not be looking at me. I mean, that's my problem. And we— but we will always have something that is at least a very, very, very low possibility; somebody that's talked to me and said, you know, `I'll see what my board things,' or who knows. But we certainly have nothing that's a high probability at the— at the moment.
BECKY: Was this thing that you just talked about, the— this deal that was potentially there, was it a— an elephant?
BUFFETT: It was a— it was a— hm, maybe a zebra, you know. Sort of— I mean, it was big enough to fit a— to make the zoo more interesting, but it— but it wasn't one to cause, you know, new crowds to come out.
BECKY: OK. So it's not as big as Burlington Northern.
BUFFETT: No, no.
BECKY: But it was something that was substantial.
BUFFETT: It was something that caused my heart to beat faster.
BECKY: OK. We're going to talk a lot more about this because ever since you mentioned that you have an itchy trigger finger in your annual letter, it's got all kinds of people trying to speculate, figure out what you might be interested in.
BUFFETT: Yeah. But I would say this, Becky. I've had an itchy trigger finger all my life. I mean, I just, I got a free ad out of it in the annual report this year.
BECKY: OK. We'll talk more about that when we come back. Carl ..
CARL: OK, Beck, a lot more still to come with Warren. What a great first 30 minutes of the show. Joe, you were saying it's like— it's like a lesson with Graham and Dodd, right?
JOE: Right. I said that yesterday.
CARL: I mean, it's the basics of investing.
JOE: Someone made me tweet. He's the closest thing to the living epitome of, like— and you can't argue with it. There's $60 billion behind saying that.
CARL: The scoreboard doesn't lie.
JOE: The scoreboard doesn't lie, no.
JOE: Right. Winning. He's a warlock.
CARL: Winning. He is a warlock. He is a god.
JOE: He is a warlock, and he likes to fondle gold occasionally, apparently.
CARL: When we come back, you asked for it, now Squawk is delivering. Buffett answers your e-mails when we return live from Omaha.
TRANSCRIPT PART THREE: 'ELEPHANT GUN' TARGETS & RIDING THE RAILROAD
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