This weekend has perhaps the most widely followed annual meeting from any public company in America as Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) will have its shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. We expect that this may be a different sort of meeting than in the past. Warren Buffett has two highly unusual stances which are going to be front and center. The first is the most unpleasant issue…
Prostate cancer and the issue of Buffett’s successor are likely first. Will this cause shareholders to call for a more focused disclosure over who will take over as CEO? Even if so, every Berkshire Hathaway investor knows that Berkshire Hathaway is Warren Buffett and Warren Buffett is Berkshire Hathaway. Our take: Buffett is likely to divulge his successor only when it is on his terms or when the decision must be announced.
The second issue is The Buffett Rule. Most of the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are not exactly middle class. They are usually the one-percenters, at least they are for the A-Shares with that super-high share price. Warren Buffett was met with a cold stare from the audience before when he defended Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) and it will be interesting to see how the audience reacts to any notion of paying higher taxes and their chief capitalist calling for Obama and Washington D.C. to increase the tax burden on the wealthy.
While this may seem like a sideshow, the investments in International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE: IBM) and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) almost have to be a topic to bring up. For years Mr. Buffett has shied away from technology. A $10 billion bet or thereabouts has only grown in value and we all know that Buffett said he would never invest in shares of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) because his close ties with Bill Gates would be construed as possessing knowledge that is too close to the situation.
It will be interesting to see if Buffett addresses relatively new positions such as DaVita Inc. (NYSE: DVA) and Dollar General Corporation (NYSE: DG). DaVita is the king of kidney dialysis and if that is not a captive market then no other market is captive. Dollar General is one we have referred to over and over as benefitting from the secular trend of dollar stores as these stores are reaching up to grab customers from traditional retailers.
We would also expect to hear a little bit more about the investing decisions and input from Berkshire’s two new portfolio managers Ted Weschler and Todd Combs.
With extremely large stakes in Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) and with those positions now being up near highs again, it will be interesting to see if Buffett addresses these core holdings as keys to the core holdings with higher dividends.
Berkshire Hathaway’s A-shares closed on Thursday at $121,800 against a 52-week range of $98,952.00 to $123,578.00; and the B-shares closed at $81.26 against a 52-week range of $65.35 to $82.47.
JON C. OGG