Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger & Bill Gates Interview ~ market folly

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger & Bill Gates Interview

Becky Quick on CNBC recently sat down with Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett for a one-on-one interview and then was later joined by Charlie Munger and Bill Gates for a discussion on a myriad of topics.  Here are some highlights:

Warren Buffett's Interview

-  Talked about technology stocks a lot at Berkshire's annual meeting.  Munger said they missed Google (GOOGL) and Buffett thought they should have had some insight into it because GEICO was a heavy user of it for advertising and paying per click.  He wasn't sure if there was a first mover advantage or if increased competition was going to come along (Bing, etc) or if there were going to be technological advances he couldn't understand.  "If I were forced to buy it or short it, I'd buy it.  Same with Amazon."

-  Apple (AAPL) shares were much more reasonable compared to future earnings so that's why he bought that tech stock.  Likens the consumer nature of the product as a way for him to easily tell what's going on with customer preference.  "You can't move people by price in the smartphone market remotely like you can in appliances ... the loyalty is huge."  Notes that most items are price sensitive (TVs, etc) but AAPL's products don't seem to be.

-  Recently highlighted how Buffett sold some IBM and he said that they've experimented with IBM's Watson at GEICO.  In that space you have to worry about somebody coming in and jumping ahead with the utility.  "The biggest value will come when it replaces human labor." 

-  Doesn't make trades on the basis of political election outcomes, doesn't look much at quarterly GDP numbers.

-  Railroad figures show the economy is doing 'OK', 2% rate or so.  Natural gas has gone up in price so that dictates the use of goal a lot of places, so coal shipments are up the most % wise. 

- Housing market is getting better, but not 'booming.'   Berkshire owns Clayton homes (manufactured homes), Acme brick, Berkshire Hathaway realty, Shaw flooring, Benjamin Moore paints. 

-  "Credit card volume will tell you a lot about the consumer., what their attitude is."

-  "Packaged goods has generally been a very profitable business."

-  Largest investor in four major airlines (UAL, DAL, AAL, LUV): Airlines have found a very high percentage of customers are price conscious.  Yet most consumers are captive to whatever airline flies the route they need to take.  Thinks consolidation of the industry has helped and it's no longer a 'suicidal business.'

-  "I have no idea what the market will do in the short-term."  They've got $95 billion sitting around and it doesn't make him happy that he's not earning anything on it.  Says it's getting tougher to buy businesses these days, "Once you buy a business, the business doesn't know what you paid for it."  "It's a very tough period to allocate capital."

- Says he's still cheap but not as cheap as he used to be. "You can afford to overpay a bit for a really fine business depending on your degree of certainty that it's a really fine business."

- Buffett says one thing he mentioned at the annual meeting no one really appreciated: that the five largest businesses today by market value ($2.5 trillion or more) you could run those businesses with no equity capital.  That's a completely different world than the past when industrial giants needed a lot of capital.

-  Didn't buy Amazon (AMZN) because of "stupidity."  Says he was impressed by Bezos long ago but didn't think he could pull off what he has.  On shares currently: "It's a big valuation ... I'm not buying any.  These are powerful ideas with big potential and he's executed."

-  One essential factor that determines what he thinks about market valuations: "The most important item over time in valuation is obviously interest rates."  "Anybody that prefers bonds to stocks today is making a big mistake.  It's ridiculous for somebody to buy a 30 year bond at these rates."

-  "Every smart guy is tempted by leverage, and some of them are broken by it."

Then at the end of Buffett's 1-on-1 interview, Charlie Munger and Bill Gates also joined Buffett to talk about healthcare, tax reform, mistakes they've made, and other topics.

Embedded below is the video of Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, and Bill Gates's interview on CNBC:

For more from these investors, be sure to check out Warren Buffett's recommended reading list as well as Charlie Munger's favorite books.

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