Buffett facing tough AGM grilling

The annual general meeting for US investor Warren Buffett’s company has opened in the US, with Mr Buffet saying he expects to face tough questions.
A record 35,000 shareholders are attending the Berkshire Hathaway AGM, held in Omaha, Nebraska.
Mr Buffett told them the US government was taking the right steps to aid recovery from the financial crisis.
The value of Berkshire Hathaway’s investments fell by nearly 10% in the last year.

Mr Buffett’s personal wealth shrank by $25bn (£17bn).
It was the worst performance in more than 40 years for the „Sage of Omaha“.
The BBC’s North America business correspondent Greg Wood says Mr Buffett is normally greeted by an adoring crowd at the AGM for this company he has run since 1965.
But the investor has had a particularly bad year in which his legendary stock-picking skills seemed to have deserted him, says our correspondent, especially when he lost nearly $3bn after buying a large stake in oil company ConocoPhillips just before the oil price crashed.
Analysts say they expect the meeting to have a more serious tone that in previous years.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Mr Buffett said it had been „a very extraordinary year“ and the economy had experienced „a financial hurricane“.
He has previously said he made some „dumb“ investment errors in 2008 and compared the US financial situation to an „economic Pearl Harbour“.
But he said the government had reacted well, telling his investors: „Overall, I commend the actions that were taken.“
Berkshire’s range of investments are seen as a bellwether of the US economy.
Tough questions

About 35,000 people are attending the company meeting

In a change from previous years, half the questions at the meeting are being drawn from email submissions and posed by journalists rather than stakeholders.
Mr Buffett has previously said that neither he nor Vice-Chairman Charlie Munger would know the questions in advance.
„We know the journalists will pick some tough ones and that’s the way we like it,“ Mr Buffett said in a letter to shareholders.
But he said there would still be an opportunity for shareholders to ask questions directly, so those at the meeting would „continue to get some good – and perhaps entertaining – questions from the audience as well“.
Some questions have already raised the issue of appointing a successor for 78-year-old Mr Buffet.
The company has said it has three internal candidates for Mr Buffett’s Chief Executive Officer role and four for Chief Investment Officer.
But Mr Buffett told the meeting he would not name a successor to begin following him now as all candidates were already running businesses and those not appointed would possibly choose to leave the company, the Associated Press reported.
„It’d be a waste of talent. I don’t really see any advantages in having some crown prince around,“ he said.
Despite its troubles, Berkshire Hathaway has fared much better than many other funds in a year of huge stock market declines.
Mr Buffett has said he is prepared to hold his investments for a long time – until they come good, says our correspondent.

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