23 Highlights Of The 2021 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting

These are the highlights of the 2021 Berkshire Hathaway (brk-b) annual meeting.

(1) Munger: “Greg will keep the culture”. (Therefore, Greg Abel will be the next CEO.)

(2) Buffett: “Interest rates are to asset prices, as gravity is to matter.”

(3) Buffett: Berkshire sold airline stocks at their lows since Buffett is chief risk officer and recovery was not certain. With Berkshire’s 10% stake in each of the four major airlines, the government may have expected Berkshire to bail them out. Berkshire’s sales of the airlines represented only 1% of its total assets of $700 billion. Berkshire also cut back its stakes in banks. It currently owns 19% of American Express. Cash on hand represents 15% of Berkshire’s value. Buffett could have deployed $50 -75 billion. Jay Powell acted decisively with speed on March 23. There was a run on money market funds in March 2020 similar to September 2008. Congress also acted quickly (unlike 2008) since there was no one to blame. Fiscal policy and monetary policy did the job. 85% of the economy is now running in high gear. Berkshire is not a bank and therefore could not borrow from the Fed. They could not depend on anyone. Banks drew down credit. The economy turned out better than expected. He is no longer interested in investing in the airline industry.

Munger: No one can time the market perfectly.

(4) Buffett: Since the average person cannot pick stocks, he recommends an S&P 500 index fund.  Munger: Prefers Berkshire over the S&P 500 (Berkshire’s 60-70 companies are better than the S&P 500 companies.)

(5) Buffett defended owning a stake in Chevron even though it is a fossil fuel company. Munger would rather have a Chevron executive as a son-in-law than an English professor.

(6) Buffett and Munger disagreed on Buffett’s sale of Costco and Wells Fargo.

(7) Buffett: Progressive Insurance is the best at charging appropriate rates (Telematics – matching rates to risk) and is growing faster than Geico. State Farm is the largest auto insurance company. Geico has a 13% share and Progressive about 12%. They will be the two largest 5 years from now. Geico is catching up to Progressive.

(8) Buffett sold some shares in Apple, called it a mistake, and Munger agreed it was a mistake.. Berkshire owns 5.3% of Apple  Tim Cook is one of the best managers in the world. They have the brand and the product.

(9) Buffett: Large tech stocks are not overvalued because of interest rates. “Interest rates are to asset prices as gravity is to matter”. Stocks are cheap at 0% interest rates. Google (not owned by Berkshire) and Apple have great rates of return on capital.

(10) Buffett: SPACs are a threat to Berkshire with respect to acquisitions. They use other people’s money to earn fees.

(11) Buffett: Berkshire would like to put $70 -80 billion to work and sometimes conditions (lower prices) change rapidly.

(12) Buffett and Munger defended stock buybacks (as they did at last year’s annual meeting in response to my question).

(13) Buffett reiterated that a few years ago 97% of Berkshire’s shareholders voted against dividends.

(14) Munger: California is stupid to have high taxes which are driving out rich people. Buffett: Berkshire’s shareholders will be hurt by higher corporate taxes.

(15) Abel: Kansas City Southern’s acquisition by Canadian Pacific or Canadian National would be detrimental to BNSF.

(16) Munger hates bitcoin’s success.

(17) Buffett: Todd Combs and Ted Weschler are both terrific but will not be on the stage at future meetings since there is no reason to educate others on how to compete with us.

(18)) Munger: The Chinese government will allow businesses to flourish. They learned from Singapore.

(19) Buffett: The biggest risk to a business is the wrong CEO.

(20) Abel: Pleased with the new management at Kraft Heinz.  Miguel (Patricio) is a strong leader on their path forward.

(21) Berkshire’s health care (17% of GDP) joint venture with JP Morgan and Amazon failed since providers do not want to receive less. Buffett referred to the situation as being a “tapeworm”.

(22) Munger: Berkshire is not too complex since its decentralized structure is working. No one copies us. “Greg will keep the culture”.

(23) Buffett and Munger are critical of Robinhood where millennials are accounting for 14% of calls and puts with expiration dates of 7 days. Robinhood has been turned into a casino.

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