Sunday, June 23, 2024

Warren Buffett warns on AI, teases succession, and hints at investment

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Berkshire Hathaway held its annual meeting on Saturday with Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett tackling a range of topics, including artificial intelligence, who will be responsible for the portfolio in the future, and the next potential investment.

But “Woodstock for capitalists” took place without Charlie Munger, Buffett’s longtime business partner who passed away in November. The meeting featured a video tribute to Munger, who served as vice chairman, and praise from Buffett, who said Munger was the best person to talk to about managing money, according to remarks broadcast on CNBC.

“I trust my children and my wife totally, but that doesn’t mean I ask them what stocks to buy,” he said.

Artificial intelligence risks

Buffett also recalled seeing an AI-generated image of himself and warned on the technology’s potential for scamming people.

“Scamming has always been part of the American scene,” he told shareholders. “But this would make me—if I was interested in investing in scamming—it’s going to be the growth industry of all time.”

He then likened AI to nuclear weapons, saying “I don’t know any way to get the genie back in the bottle, and AI is somewhat similar,” according to CNBC.

Succession outlook

Buffett, 93, had already indicated three years ago that Vice Chairman of Non-Insurance Operations Greg Abel would take over for him.

But he dropped a hint on Saturday about when new management would actually come into office, saying “you don’t have too long to wait on that.” While he said he feels fine, he quipped that he shouldn’t sign any four-year employment contracts.

Buffett also confirmed that Abel will be in charge of investing decisions, saying that responsibility “ought to be entirely” with the next CEO.

Questions had arisen about Berkshire’s closely followed portfolio as Buffett has acknowledged he delegated some calls and that certain stock picks were made by others.

Canada investment?

Buffett has lamented the lack of attractive investment opportunities in recent years, allowing Berkshire’s massive stockpile of cash and cash equivalents to reach fresh record highs.

Indeed, it surged to $189 billion at the end of the first quarter from $167.6 billion at the end of the fourth quarter.

On Saturday, Buffett reiterated that when it comes to investments, “we only swing at pitches we like.” But he also teased, “We do not feel uncomfortable in any way shape or form putting our money into Canada. In fact, we’re actually looking at one thing now.”

Those comments came after he touched on his investment in Japanese trading houses, saying it’s “unlikely we will make any large commitments in other countries.” 

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