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

Monday, May 7, 2018

Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger & Bill Gates Interview

Today on CNBC, Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett was interviewed by Becky Quick and talked about a range of topics.  Charlie Munger and Bill Gates later joined the conversation.  Here's some takeaways and quotes:

Warren Buffett's Thoughts

On the market: Stocks aren't in a bubble now.  Though said some private deal valuations are getting high and it's harder to find bargains these days.

On the economy:  Thinks the economy has picked up steam. "Yeah, I see a lot of numbers (from all BRK's businesses).  Business is generally pretty strong."  He cited railcar loadings, etc.  Also notes you've seen some inflation.

Says he thinks it's hard for unemployment to really go much lower as they have a ton of jobs available.  "If a resource is scarce, prices go up."  Says certain job lines are much harder to fill these days (construction cited specifically).

On potential trade wars:   "I don't think we will have trade wars of significance."  He thinks there will be trade movements though.  Says a trade war with China would be negative for all involved as they have a common interest.

On Amazon / Jeff Bezos:  Still laments not buying it in the past, says what Bezos has done is incredible.

On moats: Cited iPhones, Costco, and Elmer's glue as examples

On Apple: Says he doesn't have to do anything because the company will buyback so many shares, so his ownership stake will go up naturally.  He recently bought a ton more AAPL shares.  Said he currently owns around 5% of the company but he'd like to own 100% of it.  The consumer behavior was the main driver behind his ownership, as the device has woven itself into consumer's daily lives and minds, and it's a very useful product.

On owning banks:  Has owned one in the past and loves the banking business but doesn't want to now because of the bank holding co act.  Says Wells Fargo (WFC) was slow to act in addressing bad actions but still has a fundamentally solid business.

On bitcoin:  Compared it to the tulip bubble years ago.  Says it's a non-productive asset and just sits there.

On autonomous vehicles: 'Net it will be bad for the car insurance industry if autonomous vehicles become the norm.'  It will be very hard to pick winners in 5 years.

On reading he recommends, Buffett again pointed to Chapter 8 of The Intelligent Investor.  But this time around he also recommended Chapter 4 of Steven Pinker's new book, Enlightenment Now.

Ends his interview by reiterating: "It's very important in life to associate yourself with people that are better than you."

Charlie Munger's Thoughts

On the biggest thing he and Buffett have disagreed on:  Munger wanted to buy the French stake in Costco.  Buffett didn't and says he should have.  "Charlie really wants to wait for the fat pitch."

Munger said, "There's a million ways to be irrational." And while Berkshire makes mistakes, they make them far less frequently than others and he thinks that's their main advantage.

Munger noted: "The Munger family is invested in China substantially.  Since about 14 years ago, and I did it because I respected the man that was going to do the investing (Li Lu) and it looked undervalued and the companies looked very strong."  Today, he says the best companies in China are still cheaper than the best companies in the US.  "I don't think it'd be all that hard for people to find 4 or 5 companies in China to invest in."

He also said he wished Berkshire owned more of Apple.  He likes that it's reasonably priced and strong, a 'very desireable combination' as well as 'very intelligent management.'

On bitcoin, Munger called it worthless artificial gold.  "It's a scumball activity."

On potential trade wars with China: "It would be insane for them not to work together."

On what he's been reading recently:  A book by a Chinese economist, though he didn't mention the name specifically.

Bill Gates' Thoughts

He said that "T-bills set the rules" and he pointed out that since the 10-year yields 3%, you've got that hurdle to get over by taking more risk.  He says asset class returns will be lower over the next 10 years.

On bitcoin: There's some really good technology as far as sharing databases etc, but the coin itself is a speculative thing.  He received some for his birthday a while back but sold it, so doesn't own it now.  Called it a greater fool investment, and said he'd short it if there was an easy way to do so.

Gates says there are tech stocks that are undervalued, but you're going to get very high variance as the winner in some markets gets a high share of the profit pool.

He owns a ton of Microsoft (MSFT) obviously, but revealed he has a 'fantasy stock portfolio' of companies he thinks will do well but doesn't own.  "The top tech companies have a very strong share of the profit pool right now."  He obviously declined to reveal names.

Gates also echoed Munger's China sentiment that it looked attractive.

On tech and data privacy, thinks regulation is inevitable.  But the big companies will handle that.

On Tesla (TSLA): thinks they have a great product but a very high valuation and a lot of competition coming.  Says autonomous and electric vehicles are coming simultaneously and thinks 15 years from now things will be very different.

On what he's been reading recently:  Hans Rosling's book Factfulness.  Says it helps you think about a lot of different things in the world.

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