Buffett says Berkshire in good hands, lauds Apple despite lowering stake

A cutout picture of Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett welcomes shareholders to shop at the Pampered Chef booth at the Berkshire Hathaway Inc annual shareholders' meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S. May 3, 2024. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

OMAHA, Neb. — Warren Buffett assured Berkshire Hathaway shareholders on Saturday that the executives expected to succeed him were ready for the job, and he heaped praise on Apple although Berkshire trimmed its position in the iPhone maker.

Speaking at Berkshire’s annual meeting, the legendary investor paid tribute to his late business partner Charlie Munger and said he expected the conglomerate’s cash pile, now a record $189 billion, to keep growing.


The meeting was the 60th for Buffett, who since 1965 transformed Berkshire from a failing textile company into an $862 billion colossus owning the BNSF railroad, Geico car insurance, Dairy Queen and dozens of other businesses.

Buffett, 93, told shareholders that Vice Chairmen Greg Abel and Ajit Jain have proven themselves the right people to lead Berkshire after he departs.

Abel, who was designated Buffett’s successor as chief executive in 2021, and Jain have directly overseen Berkshire’s operating subsidiaries since 2018.

“When you’ve got somebody like Greg and Ajit, why settle for me?” Buffett said. “It has worked out extremely well.”

“I don’t know quite how (Abel) does it, but we’ve got the right person, I can tell you that,” he added.

Buffett said he would want Abel, 61, upon becoming chief executive, to have final say on capital allocation decisions regarding Berkshire’s portfolio of public stocks.

Investors had long considered Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, who manage part of Berkshire’s $335.9 billion equity portfolio, leading candidates to manage more or all of it.

The meeting, part of a weekend Buffett calls “Woodstock for Capitalists,” was the first since Munger died in November at age 99. Buffett described Munger, his longtime his friend and foil, as the “architect of today’s Berkshire.”

Buffett gave no sign he plans to step aside, telling shareholders, “I feel fine,” while joking he shouldn’t take on four-year employment contracts.


Before the meeting, Berkshire announced first-quarter results, including a 39% jump in operating profit to a record $11.2 billion.

In a surprise, Berkshire reported it had sold about 13% of its Apple shares, reducing the value of its stake to $135.4 billion from $174.3 billion. Apple’s stock price fell 11% in the quarter.

The sale was the main reason Berkshire’s cash hoard soared. Buffett said cash might grow to $200 billion this quarter, reflecting the risks he sees from high stock market valuations and geopolitical conflicts.

Despite reducing the Apple stake, Buffett praised the company, saying it was “an even better business” than two of Berkshire’s oldest and largest investments, American Express and Coca-Cola.

The iPhone was “one of the greatest products, and it may be the greatest product, of all time,” Buffett said.

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