Warren Buffett says inflation ‘swindles almost everybody,’ Munger rails against bitcoin, market ‘mania’ at Berkshire meeting

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Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett on Saturday put fresh money behind Activision and Chevron and doled out sharp criticism against speculation in the market.

Speaking at Berkshire Hathaway’s first in-person annual meeting since 2019, Buffett went so far as to say the market’s turned into a “gambling parlor.”

The Oracle of Omaha also commented on inflation, building on prior remarks he has made. Buffett had previously said that inflation “swindles” equity investors, but noted Saturday that it “swindles the bond investor, too. It swindles the person who keeps their cash under their mattress. It swindles almost everybody.”

Buffett and his longtime partner, Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, fielded shareholder questions on a broad range of issues for hours.

Buffett also said that Berkshire had been increasing its stake in Activision Blizzard as part of a merger arbitrage bet that Microsoft’s proposed deal to buy the video game company will close. Additionally, Berkshire revealed it had ramped up its stock bets by more than $51 billion during the first quarter amid the broader market’s downturn.

Munger, meanwhile, blasted stock trading app Robinhood.

“It’s so easy to overdo a good idea. … Look what happened to Robinhood from its peak to its trough. Wasn’t that pretty obvious that something like that was going to happen?” Munger said.

Buffett also stressed the importance of cash as “new forms of money” like bitcoin pop up.

“The United States government affects that this became exchangeable for lawful money in the United States,” Buffett said, displaying an image of an old $20 bill. “That’s what money is.”

Berkshire’s business meeting concludes with shareholder votes

Berkshire’s formal business meeting followed nearly five hours of Q&A with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Shareholders voted on a number of proposals at the meeting.

The proposal that garnered most attention was from the non-profit National Legal and Policy Center. It calls for the company to strip Buffett of his chairman role. Shareholders voted down the proposal backed by CALPERS, the largest U.S. public pension fund.

Brunel Pension requested the board of Berkshire to publish an annual assessment addressing how the company manages physical and transitional climate-related risks. The number of votes against the motion outnumbered the ones for it.

One shareholder also took issue with Berkshire’s climate change initiative. The proposal called for Berkshire to issue a report addressing if and how it intends to measure, disclose, and reduce the GHG emissions associated in alignment with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C goal, requiring net zero emissions. Shareholders voted it down.

The last proposal asked Berkshire to report to shareholders on the outcomes of their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by publishing quantitative data on workforce composition and recruitment, retention, and promotion rates of employees by gender, race, and ethnicity. The motion also failed.

— Yun Li

Buffett says he won’t buy bitcoin because ‘it doesn’t produce anything’

Warren Buffett reiterated his skepticism of bitcoin on Saturday, saying he would be unwilling to buy it for even extremely low prices because it produces nothing of value.

“Whether it goes up or down in the next year, or five or 10 years, I don’t know. But the one thing I’m pretty sure of is that it doesn’t produce anything,” Buffett said. “It’s got a magic to it and people have attached magics to lots of things.”

Buffett listed farmland, apartment buildings — and even art — as assets that had more tangible value than bitcoin.

“Assets, to have value, have to deliver something to somebody. And there’s only one currency that’s accepted. You can come up with all kinds of things. We can put up Berkshire coins, put up Berkshire money but in the end, this is money,” he said, holding up a $20 bill. “And there’s no reason in the world why the United States government … is going to let Berkshire money replace theirs.”

— Jesse Pound, Tanaya Macheel

Buffett says people are becoming more tribal

Warren Buffett said people are becoming more tribal.

“My general assumption — there’s no way to prove it — but essentially, people are now behaving somewhat more tribal than they have for a long time,” Buffett said.

“It’s fun to participate in, but it can get very dangerous when people say two plus two is five and the other says two plus two is three, you know, and they’re gonna give you those answers,” he continued.

The investor said the country seems as tribal as it appeared during the 1930s when public sentiment was split in the U.S. around Franklin Roosevelt. Buffett said he was raised in a household where he and his siblings weren’t served dessert until they “said something nasty” about Roosevelt.

“I don’t think it’s a good development for society,” Buffett said.

— Sarah Min

Buffett calls Jerome Powell a hero

In addressing a question about inflation, Buffett talked about the massive stimulus during the pandemic as a key reason for the rising prices now.

“You print loads of money, and money is going to be worth less,” Buffett said.

However, he did not criticize the Federal Reserve for its actions to boost money supply and stabilize markets during the health crisis.

“In my book, Jay Powell is a hero. It’s very simple. He did what he had to do,” Buffett said.

— Jesse Pound

Munger talks China’s political risk and low-priced investment opportunities

Mounting concerns about actions by the Chinese government in recent years has affected the prices of some Chinese stocks, particularly internet shares. Charlie Munger said he’s willing to take on that risk for a good investment.

“The reason that I invested in China is I get so much better companies at so much lower prices,” he said. “And I’m willing to take a little bit more risk to get into the better companies with the lower prices. Other people might reach the opposite conclusion, and everybody is more worried about China now than they were 50 years ago.”

Munger’s comment came in response to a question from an audience member, who asked about “the clear dangers of investing under authoritarian regimes,” and cited atrocities in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“There’s no question about the fact that the government of China has worried the investors from the United States,” Munger said. “There are more difficulties … dealing with the regime in China than there are the United States. And it’s different, it’s a long way away and they’ve got in their own culture in their own loyalty.”

— Tanaya Macheel

Buffett: ‘I look at Berkshire as a painting’

The possibilities for Berkshire Hathaway are endless in the eyes of Warren Buffett, who likened the company to a work of art.

“I look at Berkshire as a painting,” Buffett said. “It’s unlimited in size; it’s got an ever-expanding canvas, and I get to paint what I want.”

Buffett did acknowledge that he doesn’t know much about art, but added that “other people look at paintings and they see something, then they’ll see something additional later on, and they really have a different sort of perception in relation to that. To me, Berkshire is a painting, and I get to paint.”

“It’s in my head, and I see different things in it as I go along,” Buffett said. “It’s satisfying.”

Fred Imbert

Buffett says Berkshire now owns 9.5% of Activision Blizzard

Warren Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway has been increasing its stake in Activision Blizzard in a merger arbitrage bet that Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of the video game company will close.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, Berkshire first purchased about $1 billion worth of Activision Blizzard stock, in a bet the company was undervalued. Buffett has said Berkshire “had no prior knowledge” of Microsoft’s plan to buy the company when Berkshire made its initial investment.

In January, Microsoft announced intentions to buy Activision for $95 per share. Its stock closed at $75.60 per share on Friday.

Buffett said he has been buying more shares of Activision since the deal was announced as the stock is trading way below Microsoft’s offer. Buying at these levels will yield a bigger return if the deal closes.

Buffett said Berkshire now owns about 9.5% of Activision. “If we went over 10%, we would file a report,” he said.

“If the deal goes through, we make some money, and if the deal doesn’t go through, who knows what happens,” Buffett said.

“We don’t know what the Justice Department will do, we don’t know what the E.U. will do, we don’t know what 30 other jurisdictions will do. One thing we do know is that Microsoft has the money,” Buffett added.

—Hannah Miao

Buffett says inflation ‘swindles almost everybody’

When asked about his previous comments that inflation “swindles” equity investors, Buffett said the damage from rising prices was much broader than that.

“Inflation swindles the bond investor, too. It swindles the person who keeps their cash under their mattress. It swindles almost everybody,” he said.

Buffett pointed out that inflation also raises the amount of capital that companies need to have and that it isn’t as simple as raising prices to maintain inflation-adjusted profits.

The Berkshire Hathaway CEO cautioned against listening to people who claim to be able to predict the path of inflation.

“The question is how much … and the answer is nobody knows,” Buffett said.

Buffett reiterated that the best protection against the inflation is investing in your own skills.

— Jesse Pound

Buffett wants to make it clear he’s not the only one picking stocks at Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett wants to make it clear that he’s not the only one at Berkshire Hathaway picking stocks.

“I see headlines in papers just time after time after time that say, ‘Buffett’s buying such and such,’” Buffett said. “I’m not buying such and such. Berkshire Hathaway is buying.”

The investor said a stock pick may have been made by other finance professionals in his organization without Buffett’s ever having heard of it.

“But the headline will attract more people if it says Buffett buying this than if it says Berkshire Hathaway, and we don’t know whether it is the people that work for him, the headline is designed to bring people into the story,” Buffett said.

“The easiest thing to do is basically shut up and not have a bunch of people facing consequences they didn’t ask for in the first place,” he said.

— Sarah Min

Buffett describes his start to investing when he was 11 years old

A man walks a dog in the shade away from the midday sun past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building in Manhattan, during hot weather in New York City, New York, U.S., August 11, 2020.
A man walks a dog in the shade away from the midday sun past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building in Manhattan, during hot weather in New York City, New York, U.S., August 11, 2020. Mike Segar | Reuters

 

A trip to the New York Stock Exchange when he was 9 years old was inspiring for Warren Buffett, who is known to have started investing when he was 11 years old.

“I went to the New York Stock Exchange, I was in awe of it,” Buffett said. “I got very interested in technical analysis and charted stocks and did all kinds of crazy things, did hours and hours and hours and saved money to buy other stocks and tried shorting. I just did everything.”

The investor bought a stock at 11 after spending his childhood reading books on the subject from the library and in his father’s office. He said his approach to investing later changed completely when he was 19 or 20 years old after reading one particular book passage in what he said must have been Benjamin Graham’s “The Intelligent Investor.”

“I looked at this book and I saw one paragraph and it told me I’ve been doing everything wrong. I just had the whole approach wrong,” Buffett said.

— Sarah Min

Munger says Robinhood is ‘unraveling’

Charlie Munger pointed to commission-free brokerage Robinhood as an example of a good idea that got “grossly overdone.”

The stock fell below $10 per share last week after the company announced layoffs and a decline in active users. It debuted at $38 per share in July 2021.

“Look what happened to Robinhood, from its peak to its trough,” Munger said. “Wasn’t it pretty obvious something like that was going to happen?”

Munger said the “hidden kickbacks” of that business model were “disgusting.” Robinhood makes money from a practice known as a payment for order flow. It receives some of the spread on trades the company forwards to larger trading houses.

“It’s unraveling. God is getting just,” Munger said.

— Jesse Pound

Munger says ‘just say no’ to putting bitcoin in your retirement account

Charlie Munger is still down on bitcoin.

He responded to an audience member question asking what single stock they would invest in given how high inflation has been rising.

The Berkshire executives didn’t say where they would put their money, but Munger was clear about where he wouldn’t invest: bitcoin.

“When you have your own retirement account, and your friendly adviser suggests you put all the money in into bitcoin, just say no,” he said.

Munger’s answer was a thinly veiled reference to big news from Fidelity this week, which will now allow employees to put bitcoin into their employee-sponsored retirement accounts.

Munger and Buffett have both long been critics of bitcoin, which has become increasingly attractive to certain investors for its potential as an inflation hedge.

— Tanaya Macheel

Warren Buffett said he has never figured out how to time the markets.

“We haven’t the faintest idea what the stock market was gonna do when it opens on Monday,” Buffett said in response to an audience question.

“I don’t think we’ve ever made a decision where either one of us has either said or been thinking we should buy or sell based on what the market is going to do, or for that matter, on what the economy’s going to do. We don’t know,” he continued.

The Oracle of Omaha said he often gets misplaced credit for the stock winners he’s picked over the years, pointing out he’s also missed out on some big opportunities as well. Buffett said he failed to make some big purchases in the early days of the pandemic. In a single day in March 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 12.9%, its worst day since 1987.

Instead, Buffett adheres to a value investing strategy, or picking stocks with attractive valuations, instead of focusing on the vagaries of the stock market.

“We have not been good at timing,” Buffett said. “We’ve been reasonably good at figuring out when we were getting enough for our money. And we had no idea when we bought anything, but we always hoped it would the down for a while so we could buy more. … I mean, that stuff, you could you could learn in fourth grade.”

— Sarah Min

Display showing Gecko character for GEICO Insurance during the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
Display showing Gecko character for GEICO Insurance during the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
Yun Li | CNBC

Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Ajit Jain, who runs all of the conglomerate’s insurance businesses, lamented about how Geico has fallen behind rival Progressive in the car insurance business.

“Each one have their plusses and minuses, but having said that, there’s no question that recently Progressive has done a much better job than Geico … both in terms of margins and in terms of growth,” Jain said.

“There are a number of causes for that, but I think the biggest culprit is as far as Geico is concerned … is telematics,” he added. Telematics refers to putting a device on a car that tracks driving patterns, in exchange for a lower insurance rate.

“Progressive has been on the telematics bandwagon for more than 10 years. Geico, until recently, wasn’t involved in telematics,” Jain said. “It’s a long journey, but the journey has started, and the initial results are promising. It will take a while, but my hope is that in the next year or two, Geico will be positioned to catch up with Progressive.”

Jain’s comments came after Berkshire reported earlier in the day a massive earnings drop in its insurance underwriting business for the first quarter.

Fred Imbert

Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger had some stern words in response to a proposal to oust CEO Warren Buffett as chairman.

“It’s the most ridiculous criticism I ever heard,” Munger said.

“It’s like Odysseus would come back from winning the battle of Troy and so forth and some guy would say, ‘I don’t like the way you were holding your spear when you won that battle,’” he added, referencing ancient Greek epic “The Odyssey.”

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, the biggest public pension fund in the U.S., earlier this month said it would vote in favor of a shareholder proposal to remove Buffett from his chairman role while remaining CEO. The proposal’s aim stems from concerns about corporate governance with one person holding dual roles.

“Some guy that’s never run any business, doesn’t know anything — I don’t think too much of this activity,” Munger said.

—Hannah Miao

Charles Munger at the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, April 30, 2022.
Charles Munger at the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, April 30, 2022.
CNBC

Munger said today’s stock market has become “almost a mania of speculation.”

His comment alluded to both high frequency algorithmic trading and access new investors have that intensified during the pandemic.

“We have computers with algorithms trading against other computers,” Munger said. “We’ve got people who know nothing about stocks, being advised by stockbrokers who know even less.

“I understand the commission though,” Buffett joked.

After Munger likened the activity to a casino, where people play craps and roulette, Buffett expanded on the comparison.

“People and traders’ poker chips are pulling the handle,” he said. “They’ve got the system set up so that if you want to buy a three-day call on the stock you can do it and they make more money selling you calls than if you buy stock, so they teach you calls. Nobody’s going around selling calls on farms. That’s why markets do crazy things. Occasionally Berkshire gets a chance to do something. It’s not because we’re smarter. … we’re sane, and that’s the main requirement in this business.”

— Tanaya Macheel

Warren Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway is open to investing in businesses anywhere, not just in the U.S.

“We have so much trouble finding good ideas that we can’t afford to ignore any,” Buffett said. “But they do have to be sizable.”

Buffett said while he does seek out new investments, he prefers to be approached proactively.

“We’ll pay any price, climb any hills to find businesses, but we actually prefer when they fall into our lap,” Buffett said.

Hannah Miao

Buffett said he wants Berkshire Hathaway to be in a “position to operate” should the economy stop.

“We want Berkshire Hathaway to be there and in a position to operate if the economy stops,” Buffett said. “And that can always happen, it can always happen.”

Buffett played a significant role during the Great Recession, providing capital during a pivotal moment to companies such as Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. The move drew criticism from those who disapproved of the support of big banks.

The billionaire investor made those remarks while also praising the Federal Reserve’s role during the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic.

“The Federal Reserve has not gone,” Buffett said. He added the Fed will “do whatever is necessary. … That’s what happened in 2008 and 2009, and that’s what happened in 2020, and you’ll hope it happens again next time.”

— Sarah Min

Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha Nebraska on April 29th, 2022.
Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha Nebraska on April 29th, 2022.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Ahead of the shareholder meeting, the executives of several Berkshire portfolio companies told CNBC how inflation was hitting their businesses.

One of those executives was Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks Running.

Weber said it was tough to raise prices for Brooks’ products but that he thinks some of the cost pressures could cool soon.

“We don’t have unlimited pricing power, but we have taken selective price increases where we think we can. But our whole industry is so competitive. It’s a big market place. … I do believe in the supply chain that costs are going to mediate a bit,” Weber said.

Read more about the impact of inflation on companies such as Nebraska Furniture Mart and Dairy Queen.

— Jesse Pound

Buffett scooped up 14% of oil giant Occidental Petroleum, worth more than $7 billion, in two weeks during March.

He pointed out that the stake was even larger when accounting for the index fund providers who own a huge chunk of the company.

“That’s not investment. You’re not buying from [investors]. I find it just incredible. You couldn’t do that with Berkshire. … Overwhelmingly, large companies in America, they became poker chips,” Buffett said.

“That enabled us, in a two-week period, to buy 14% of a business that’s been around for decades,” Buffett said. “Imagine trying to [buy] 14% of the farms in this country. 14% of the apartment houses. 14% of the auto dealerships, or just anything, when already 40% were locked up some other place. It defies anything Charlie and I have seen, and we’ve seen a lot.”

The legendary investor said that the short-term volatility earlier this year fueled by “gambling mentality” allowed him to find good long-term opportunities.

— Yun Li, Jesse Pound

In his annual chairman letter to shareholders in February, Warren Buffett said there is “little that excites us” in the market. But soon after, he put Berkshire’s money to work.

Berkshire at the beginning of March revealed a big stake in oil giant Occidental Petroleum. At the beginning of April, Berkshire announced a major stake in tech hardware stock HP. Berkshire’s first-quarter filing revealed the company significantly increased its bet on Chevron.

“We found some things we prefer to owning Treasury bills,” quipped Berkshire vice chairman and Buffett’s right-hand man Charlie Munger.

—Hannah Miao

An old 20 dollar bill shown during Berkshire Hathaway press conference
An old 20 dollar bill shown during Berkshire Hathaway press conference
CNBC

Warren Buffett warned shareholders about “new forms of money” as he recalled the financial crisis of 2008 and said Berkshire Hathaway will “always have a lot of cash on hand.”

Buffett did not explicitly identify bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, though he has made headlines for calling bitcoin “rat poison” in the past and has said it has no unique value. Charlie Munger has also spoken with hostility about it.

“The United States government affects that this became exchangeable for lawful money in the United States,” Buffett said, displaying an image of an old $20 bill.

“That’s what money is,” he added. “It may turn out that it becomes worth dramatically less at purchasing power. It can become almost like paper money as it has in many countries. But that when people tell you that they’re reaching [for] new forms of money, this is the only thing that will pay bills.”

— Tanaya Macheel

Warren Buffett has a long history of teasing investment bankers and their institutions – saying that they encourage mergers and spinoffs to reap fees, rather than improve companies.

Today, he noted that Berkshire Hathaway would always be cash-rich, and in times of need, would be “better than the banks” at extending credit lines to companies in need. While Buffett was talking, someone was shouting from the crowd in the CHI Center. It was unclear what the audience member was said.

“Was that a banker screaming?” Buffett joked.

—Hugh Son

Berkshire bought more than $51 billion worth of stocks during the first quarter’s market turmoil, including sizable investments in Chevron, HP and Occidental. The buying at the start of the year marked a sharp reversal from 2021 that saw $7.4 billion of net sales in stocks.

The S&P 500 suffered a 5% sell-off in the first quarter, posting its worst quarter since the start of the pandemic. The rout continued in April with the equity benchmark down another 8.8% amid fears of surging inflation and rising rates.

— Yun Li

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at press conference during the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 30, 2022.
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at press conference during the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 30, 2022.
CNBC

Warren Buffett appeared on stage at the CHI Health Center with his right hand man Charlie Munger by his side. They were welcomed by a round of applause from shareholders. Also on the stage were vice chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain.

“It feels good to be back,” the chairman and CEO said. “The two of us are 190 years old, and I really think you’re entitled, if you’re the owner of a company and got two guys — 98 and 91 — running the company, you’re entitled to actually see them in person.”

— Yun Li, Fred Imbert

Berkshire Hathaway counts musician and business mogul Jimmy Buffett among its long-term shareholders. The “Margaritaville” restaurant chain owner told CNBC he first bought shares of Berkshire Hathaway about 25 years ago.

“Have you held onto them this entire time?” Becky Quick asked.

“Never sold anything,” Buffett said.

Warren Buffett and Jimmy Buffett attend Conservation International New York Dinner at Pierre Hotel on May 3, 2005 in New York City.
Warren Buffett and Jimmy Buffett attend Conservation International New York Dinner at Pierre Hotel on May 3, 2005 in New York City.
Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

The singer-songwriter said he first came to know Berkshire chairman and CEO Warren Buffett when tracing his family lineage. While the Buffetts have no relation, the two have remained friends.

Jimmy Buffett designed a pontoon boat manufactured by Berkshire subsidiary Forest River that debuted Friday at the “Berkshire Bazaar of Bargains.”

A motor boat display at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder's Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
A motor boat display at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
Yun Li | CNBC

Warren Buffett gave a sales pitch for the party boat in his annual shareholder letter in February, calling the musician ”‘Cousin’ Jimmy Buffett.”

“Your bargain-hunting chairman will be buying a boat for his family’s use,” the chairman said.

—Hannah Miao

Warren Buffett’s career has been a testament to that the fact that, over the long-term, value investing can produce major gains.

From the start of 1965 through the end of 2021, the per-share market value of Berkshire Hathaway had an average compound annual gain of 20.1%, according to the firm’s annual letter. That is nearly double the S&P 500′s 10.5%, including dividends.

Berkshire’s long-term returns

While Buffett has built a big lead over many decades, he has had continued success in recent years. Since 2010, Berkshire has outpaced the S&P 500 in eight calendar years. That is on track to happen again in 2022.

—Jesse Pound

Many investors might be surprised to learn that there are only seven analysts covering Berkshire Hathaway at Wall Street’s major equity research firms. Among these analysts, six of them have a hold-equivalent rating and only one has a buy rating, according to CNBC Research.

The primary reason for the lack of Berkshire bulls is the conglomerate’s stellar performance this year, leading many to believe the good news has been priced in to the stock. Secondly, some analysts were expecting a slowdown in buybacks following a record year of share repurchases.

— Yun Li

Warren Buffett tours the shopping kiosks at the 2019 BHASM in Omaha, NE on May 3rd, 2019.
Warren Buffett tours the shopping kiosks at the 2019 BHASM in Omaha, NE on May 3rd, 2019.
Gerard Miller | CNBC

Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting draws tens of thousands of attendees to Omaha, Nebraska, but the event has humble beginnings.

Warren Buffet took control of the company in 1965, and the shareholder meetings continued to be held in Massachusetts through 1972, according to the Omaha World-Herald. When Buffet moved the meetings to Omaha, just about a dozen people attended the first several years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 1985, the meeting drew 250 attendees. In 1989, a thousand people came. In 1996, the event had 5,000 attendees. By the 2000s, the meeting rose to the prominence of tens of thousands of participants.

The legendary event is often referred to as a pilgrimage for those in the world of business and finance. In fact, the meeting is most commonly dubbed “Woodstock for Capitalists.”

It’s unclear exactly when the name first came about, but the earliest reference to Woodstock in Berkshire’s annual letters came in 1997, recapping the 1996 company’s performance.

Buffet referred to the event as “our capitalist’s version of Woodstock -the Berkshire Annual Meeting,” he wrote to shareholders.

Berkshire Hathaway's CEO Warren Buffett (L) and his business partner Vice Chairman Charles Munger answer questions at a news conference May 4, 2003 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO Warren Buffett (L) and his business partner Vice Chairman Charles Munger answer questions at a news conference May 4, 2003 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Eric Francis | Getty Images

— Hannah Miao

Saturday’s “Woodstock for Capitalists” kicked off, with big shareholders, CEOs and other investors flooding the event center, including first-time attendee Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was also in attendance, as well as Apple CEO Tim Cook.

— Tanaya Macheel

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Buffett has a long history of favoring banks. He helped rescue Salomon Brothers in the 1990s and swooped in again to help the industry by injecting $5 billion into Goldman Sachs in 2008 and another $5 billion into Bank of America in 2011.

So investors took note when he unloaded stakes in JPMorgan Chase, Goldman and Wells Fargo in 2020, trimming his portfolio to U.S.-centric retail lenders including Bank of America and U.S. Bancorp.

The fact that he has stayed away this year — despite loosening his purse strings for a string of recent deals and amid a pullback in bank stocks – could be a bad sign for the broader economy, some say.

“What this is telling you is, he thinks we need to batten down the hatches because we’re looking at a long cycle of inflation and probably stagnation,” said Phillip Phan, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

—Hugh Son

Warren Buffett’s long-term track record is hard to argue against, but his investments are not immune to short-term volatility in the markets.

Here’s how Berkshire’s top holdings performed in a rough April for the broader stock market.

— Jesse Pound

Shareholders on Friday pregamed Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting with a shopping carnival featuring goods sold by the conglomerate’s holdings.

The event is a tradition each year known as the “Berkshire Bazaar of Bargains.” Only those with a shareholder credential can participate and shop at a discount in the CHI Health Center.

Exhibits included toy trains mimicking BNSF Railway rolling stock, Berkshire chocolate coins from See’s Candies and Buffett-branded Brooks athleisure.

A woman takes a selfie in front of Berkshire Hathaway signage at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
A woman takes a selfie in front of Berkshire Hathaway signage at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
The NetJets display at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
The NetJets display at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. 
at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
The counter at See's Candies, at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
The counter at See’s Candies, at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Sign advertising Capitalist card at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
Sign advertising Capitalist card at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Warren Buffett rides in a cart at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
Warren Buffett rides in a cart at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Charles Munger at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
Charles Munger at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Warren Buffett and Becky Quick at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
Warren Buffett and Becky Quick at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Charles Munger and Warren Buffet faces in Berkshire Hathaway T-Shirts at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
Charles Munger and Warren Buffet faces in Berkshire Hathaway T-Shirts at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
People shopping for See's Candies at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
People shopping for See’s Candies at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

—Yun Li and Hannah Miao

Before Berkshire’s recent buying spree, the Omaha-based conglomerate had been a net seller of stocks for the past five quarters as Buffett saw few bargains among surging equities.

In the second quarter of 2020, Buffett dumped his entirety of airline stakes, north of $4 billion then, as he believed the pandemic changed the industry fundamentally.

— Yun Li
Berkshire Hathaway's CEO Warren Buffett (L) and his business partner Vice Chairman Charles Munger answer questions at a news conference May 4, 2003 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO Warren Buffett (L) and his business partner Vice Chairman Charles Munger answer questions at a news conference May 4, 2003 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Eric Francis | Getty Images

Shares of Berkshire Hathaway have been one of the stock market’s best bets in 2022.

The B-class shares of Warren Buffett’s conglomerate ended April up nearly 8% for the year. The S&P 500, meanwhile, has shed more than 13%.

Berkshire Hathaway climbs in rocky market

The gain for Buffett has come despite a decline of roughly 11% for Apple, Berkshire’s top holding. The firm has benefited from big gains in energy stocks such Chevron and Occidental Petroleum. Berkshire also has large position in Coca-Cola, which has gained 9% in 2022 despite increasing concerns about a potential recession.

Despite the overall gains, Berkshire was not immune to the market downturn in April. The B-class shares dropped 8.5% over the past month.

—Jesse Pound

Berkshire Hathaway’s first-quarter earnings declined year over year, with the stock market turmoil and weaker insurance results hurting results.

The company reported $5.46 billion in earnings, down from $11.71 billion in the year-earlier period for a decline of about 53%.

Because of Berkshire’s large investment holdings, earnings can be volatile quarter to quarter. Buffett has long said investors should focus on Berkshire’s operating earnings, which were mostly flat year over year at $7.04 billion, as a better indicator of the firm’s performance.

The pace of stock buybacks also slowed, with Berkshire spending $3.2 billion on repurchases compared with $6.9 billion in the prior quarter. The company ended March with  $106.3 billion in cash.

—Jesse Pound

Shareholders lined up Saturday morning to enter CHI Health Center for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting.

Shareholders lining up to get into CHI Health Center for Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting. April 30, 2022.
Shareholders lining up to get into CHI Health Center for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting. April 30, 2022.
CNBC | Yun Li
Shareholders lining up to get into CHI Health Center for Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting. April 30, 2022.
Shareholders lining up to get into CHI Health Center for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting. April 30, 2022.
CNBC | Yun Li
People enter the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 30, 2022.
People enter the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 30, 2022.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

—Yun Li and Hannah Miao

Berkshire’s annual shareholder arrives at a time of heightened worry in the stock market.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite finished a rough April at their lows for the year. The broad S&P 500 suffered its worst month since March 2020, while the the tech-heavy Nasdaq had its worst month since 2008.

Berkshire also struggled in April, but its stock has been a relative safe-haven and is up nearly 8% for the year.

Buffett’s decades of experiences spans many recessions, bear markets and periods of high volatility, so his acolytes will likely be looking for his guidance on how to approach investing at this current moment.

—Jesse Pound

Berkshire Hathaway’s massive cash pile dipped to $106.3 billion at the end of the first quarter, the lowest level since the third quarter of 2018, as Warren Buffet ramped up his investment activity.

The “Oracle of Omaha” recently used $23 billion in different investments — $11.6 billion to acquire insurer Alleghany, more than $7 billion in additional investments in oil giant Occidental Petroleum and $4.2 billion for a stake in PC maker Hewlett-Packard.

— Yun Li
Crowds after entering Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 30, 2022.
Crowds after entering Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 30, 2022.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Buffett is expected to kick off Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting on a high note, with the “Oracle of Omaha” finally back in the deal-making game and the conglomerate’s outperforming stock crossing a key milestone.

The 91-year-old chairman and CEO will be on stage with his right-hand man Charlie Munger at 98 to answer shareholder questions, following a flurry of investment activities — stakes in Occidental Petroleum and HP as well as an acquisition of Alleghany.

Here are some of the big topics shareholders will want to hear from Buffett:

  • Market outlook: The stock market has suffered a correction on fears of inflation and rising rates. How should investors navigate the volatility and a tricky economic landscape?
  • Deploying more cash: Buffett has been putting capital to work as of late. Will his buying spree continue? Is he going to pull off an “elephant-sized” deal?
  • A slowdown in buybacks: With Berkshire shares significantly outperforming, will Buffett cease or continue to slow down his aggressive buyback program?
  • Life after Buffett and Munger: Berkshire’s succession plan
  • China, crypto, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and more

— Yun Li

Here’s the schedule for CNBC’s coverage of the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting
CNBC: 2022 BHASM: Becky Quick at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
CNBC: 2022 BHASM: Becky Quick at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, April 29, 2022.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

CNBC will be livestreaming Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting on Saturday, beginning at 9:45 a.m. ET. Viewers can expect a lively discussion regarding Warren Buffett’s view of the market, Berkshire’s plans to spend its cash and other key topics.

Here is a rundown of the day’s events:

9:45 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.: Pre-show anchored by Becky Quick and Mike Santoli

10:15 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Morning session of annual meeting

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.: Halftime show anchored by Becky Quick and Mike Santoli

2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Afternoon session of annual meeting

4:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.: Post-show anchored by Becky Quick and Mike Santoli

4:45 p.m.: Formal Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

Post-meeting coverage: Final thoughts live from Omaha, Nebraska, with Becky Quick and Mike Santoli

Note: Schedule reflects Eastern Time

—Christina Cheddar Berk

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