Warren Buffett, the octogenarian “Sage of Omaha”, is celebrating a record share price for his Berkshire Hathaway empire this weekend, as 35,000 investors descended on his home town for its spectacular annual meeting.
Berkshire Hathaway, the sprawling conglomerate that owns more than 80 businesses including insurers, utilities and ketchup-maker Heinz – as well as stakes in Tesco and Coca-Cola – saw its stock rocket late on Friday UK time. Class A shares, the most influential forms of Berkshire Hathaway’s stock, now sell for nearly $163,000 (£105,000) a pop – more than the cost of the average home in the North-east of England.
The share surge came ahead of an after-trading-hours announcement of a 51 per cent increase in quarterly profit to $4.9bn. Revenue rose 15 per cent on the same three months last year to $43.9bn.
Mr Buffett and his 89-year-old chief lieutenant, Charlie Munger, yesterday fielded questions from investors about the fortunes of a conglomerate of which he gained the majority share in 1965. Staged in Omaha, Nebraska, this is considered one of the most exciting events of the global corporate calendar: it has been dubbed the “Woodstock of Capitalism”.
The event is known for its multitude of publicity stunts, which in recent years have seen Mr Buffett arrive on stage on a motorbike and take on the US table tennis champion.
This year, lucky shareholders could snap up a pair of boxer shorts adorned with cartoon likenesses of Mr Buffett’s and Mr Munger’s faces for just $5 a pair from Berkshire Hathaway’s Fruit of the Loom business. In the film that opened the session yesterday, the duo were again animated, performing the hit song “Gangnam Style”.
In the meeting, Mr Buffett confirmed that he and the board were “solidly in agreement” on his eventual successor. He did not name the individual, but claimed they had “more brains, more energy, more passion” than he.
Although Berkshire Hathaway underperformed the S&P 500 index last year, Mr Buffett remains arguably the world’s most influential investor, a mathematical whizzkid as a child who grew up to possess a razor-sharp business mind. So devoted are his fans, that having joined Twitter only last week he has already amassed 350,000 followers, many of whom live by his maxims, such as: “Never invest in a business that you can’t understand.”
Last week, Heinz shareholders approved the company’s $28bn takeover by Berkshire Hathaway and private equity firm 3G Capital.