Warren Buffett opened the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting on Saturday with an optimistic assessment of the US recovery from the pandemic, saying business was “very good” in parts of the economy.
In his annual address to Berkshire shareholders, the 90-year-old dean of the investing world said American capitalism “has worked incredibly well.”
“This has been a very unusual recession,” Buffett said. “Right now, business is really very good in many segments of the economy. . . but there are still problems if you are in a few types of businesses that have really been wiped out. “
He spent the first part of the meeting before opening up to questions running shareholders through the lists of the world’s 20 most valuable companies, both in 2021 and in 1989.
“We had a map for the future, an ambitious map that somehow just 232 years later leaves us with five of the six largest companies in the world,” he said. . “It’s no accident and it’s not because we were so much smarter or much stronger, or anything like that.”
But he warned that “the world can change in very, very dramatic ways,” as he pointed out on the 1989 roster, which was dominated by Japanese bands.
The day deviates from what Berkshire shareholders might have expected ahead of the pandemic forces the company to a virtual format. Buffett was joined this year by his longtime partner and Berkshire vice chairman Charlie Munger, as well as Greg Abel and Ajit Jain, the two men nominated by shareholders as potential successors.
The event is expected to remain a small business, without the crowds of investors who have descended on Omaha for the annual meeting or the starred investor video who in the past have included Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from television breaking Bad and Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute in the American version of Office.
The four men speak instead in Los Angeles, where Munger lives, and are expected to answer about three-and-a-half hours of questions before the board calls the start of official business for the day.
Investors still have hours to wait before hearing the outcome on perhaps the most important agenda items of the day: how shareholders voted two shareholder proposals it would push Berkshire to disclose its efforts to tackle climate change, diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
Berkshire’s board of directors has advised shareholders to vote against the two proposals, draw reproaches from some. The California Public Sector Employee Retirement System and asset manager Neuberger Berman have said they will suspend the votes of several directors for re-election to the company’s board of directors on Saturday.
Others, including one of the company’s major shareholders – Norges Bank – have approved both shareholder proposals. The proposals face an uphill battle nonetheless, given the company’s two-class structure and Buffett’s large stake in its high-voting stocks.
Ron Olson, director of Berkshire and partner at law firm Munger Tolles & Olson, told Yahoo Finance on Saturday he expected both proposals to be rejected.
Earlier today, the company said it had swung at a profit of $ 11.7 billion, or $ 7,638 per Class A share, compared with a loss of $ 49.7 billion a year earlier, or $ 30,653 per share.