Omaha: Warren Buffett said on Saturday he plans to visit India next March, and would not rule out the country for possible future investments.
Speaking at Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s annual meeting in response to a shareholder question, Buffett said he had decided only on Friday to make the trip, saying the company’s Iscar Metalworking Cos unit “is doing very well there”.
Buffett said “we do not rule out India” as a possible locale for future Berkshire investments, whether in companies or marketable securities, though bureaucratic obstacles could complicate any plans to invest, including limitations on foreign ownership.
On song: Buffett (centre) plays the ukulele with The Quebe Sisters Band at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting on Saturday. Reuters
He added that “we’ve looked a lot at being in the insurance business in India”. Insurance and reinsurance are Berkshire’s main business lines.
Demographers expect India to overtake China as the world’s most populous country within the next two decades, and Buffett predicted that “people in India will be living a lot better 20 years from now”.
Buffett does not disclose where he plans to make future investments, but occasionally travels outside the US to seek opportunities or check on Berkshire investments.
Among Berkshire’s investments in Asia are the Korean steel maker Pohang Iron and Steel Co. (Posco) and Chinese car and battery maker BYD Co. Ltd.
Both have been profitable, giving Berkshire respective paper profits of $1.32 billion (around Rs5,870 crore) and $1.75 billion as of year-end, according to Berkshire’s annual report.
Buffett also said Berkshire swung to a $3.63 billion first quarter profit from a year earlier $1.53 billion loss, helped by an improving economy and gains from investments and derivatives. Operating earnings rose 30% to $2.22 billion from $1.71 billion, reflecting “a pretty good uptick” in business activity, he said.
Buffett also strongly defended Berkshire’s $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and the investment bank’s embattled chief executive Lloyd Blankfein.
Buffett’s forceful defence makes him perhaps Goldman’s most powerful defender in the wake of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil fraud lawsuit on 16 April against the company.