Berkshire Hathaway shareholders elect directors

OMAHA, Neb. — The Latest on Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting on Saturday (all times local):

4 p.m.

Berkshire Hathaway shareholders have approved expanding the company’s board to 14 to promote two company executives to new vice chairmen jobs.

CEO Warren Buffett had proposed adding Greg Abel and Ajit Jain to Berkshire’s board as part of their new roles that he announced earlier this year, and shareholders agreed.

Abel, who ran Berkshire’s utility unit, now oversees all non-insurance businesses. Jain, who oversaw Berkshire’s reinsurance unit, now manages all of its insurance businesses.

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3:45 p.m.

Berkshire Hathaway shareholders rejected two proposals that would have encouraged the company to produce reports on environmental concerns.

One measure would have encouraged the company to produce a report on its efforts to limit methane emissions from its pipelines and storage facilities.

Greg Abel, who has overseen Berkshire’s utilities, said the company’s pipeline unit already does better in limited methane emissions that the goal environmental groups have suggested.

The other rejected measure would have encouraged more Berkshire subsidiaries to produce sustainability reports.

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2:30 p.m.

Warren Buffett says he’s surprised that the rate of decline in the newspaper industry hasn’t slowed much in the past five years.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns a group of more than two dozen small and medium-sized newspapers.

Buffett said Saturday at Berkshire’s annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, that the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post are likely the only newspapers that can generate enough revenue from their digital products to replace what they lost from the shift away from print.

He says he hopes more daily newspapers can find a way to be economically viable because they are so important to society.

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1 p.m.

Berkshire Hathaway’s top two executive faced several questions Saturday about why they made certain investment decisions in the past.

Several years ago, Berkshire held small investments in Visa and MasterCard along with its long-time major stake in American Express.

CEO Warren Buffett says that in hindsight he should have bought more Visa and MasterCard, but he wasn’t smart enough to recognize the opportunity.

Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger says “We’d do a lot better in all our stock picking if we did it in retrospect.”

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12:15 p.m.

Billionaire Warren Buffett says he doesn’t expect a full-blown trade war to develop between the United States and China because both countries benefit so much from trade.

Buffet made the comments at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.

Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger says he’s also optimistic that the two countries will find a way to resolve their trade disagreements without creating lasting ill will toward each other.

Analysts say a list of hard-line demands that the Trump administration handed China this week could make it even more difficult to resolve a trade conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

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10:45 a.m.

Investor Warren Buffett still isn’t disclosing many details of the new health care initiative his company started with Amazon and JP Morgan Chase, but he hopes it will make a significant difference.

Buffett said he hopes employees of the three companies will wind up with better medical care at a lower cost.

The three companies are still working to hire an executive to lead the initiative. Buffett says the goal is to attack the current system and find ways to lower costs and improve outcomes.

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10:30 a.m.

Billionaire Warren Buffett says Wells Fargo is cleaning up its act after the misconduct at the bank in recent years.

Wells Fargo had been trying to repair its reputation after admitting in 2016 that employees opened as many as 2 million accounts without getting customers’ permission to meet aggressive sales targets.

Berkshire Hathaway owns roughly 10 per cent of Wells Fargo’s stock, and Buffett said Saturday that he has no plans to sell it.

Buffett says Wells Fargo clearly made a big mistake and had the wrong incentives in place for employees, but now they making strides. He says he sees “no reason to think that Wells Fargo, going forward, will be anything other than a large, well-run bank.”

Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger was more blunt, as he often is: “It was clearly an error. They are acutely aware of it and don’t want it to happen again.”

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10:05 a.m.

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett says that promoting two executives to oversee most of the companies businesses hasn’t really changed his routine much.

Buffett promoted Greg Abel and Ajit Jain to vice chairmen this year and expanded their responsibilities. Both men now oversee about half of Berkshire’s operating companies.

Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger both said little has changed with this year’s promotion of Abel and Jain because Berkshire’s businesses largely run themselves day-to-day. Buffett said he still spends most of his time reading about businesses, thinking and fielding the occasional phone call.

“Part of the Berkshire secret is that when there is nothing to do, Warren is very good at doing nothing,” Munger said

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9:35 a.m.

Investor Warren Buffett will spend the day fielding questions at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting before a crowd of tens of thousands of people.

Berkshire shareholders can celebrate the fact that most of the companies 90-odd businesses are performing well as the economy continues growing, but the conglomerate’s future is always in the back of their minds because Buffett is 87.

Kirk Meyer of Nashville, one of the thousands at the annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, says he always hopes Buffett will address the “taboo subject of succession.”

Buffett doesn’t plan to retire, but he likely invited more discussion of his eventual replacement earlier this year when he promoted Greg Abel and Ajit Jain to vice chairmen and expanded their responsibilities. Both men now oversee about half of Berkshire’s operating companies.

 

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