Yahoo Finance recaps the main topics brought up at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting.
ANDY SERWER: And that concludes the 2021 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting to shareholders. But stick around, there is a lot to talk about, a lot to go through with our panel here at Yahoo Finance. Of course, Buffett and Munger talking about all manner of subjects concerning Berkshire, how the company performed, the economy, railroads, tech stocks, Bitcoin, the whole gamut.
And the atmosphere here in the room, you guys, different from last year when there was absolutely no one in the cavernous CHI Center in Omaha. There are directors, you can hear them behind me talking right now. A good number of them turned out. So there was some reaction in response to the zingers that Buffett and particularly, Charlie Munger, delivered to the crowd. But still not the same thing as the 40,000 people who attend each year.
And you heard Buffett at the end there just talking about how he hoped everyone would be back in Omaha next year. And of course, he had the exact date right there, April 30 of 2022. So want to go around and get some reaction, top line from the panel. Myles Udland, why don’t we start with you? What was your big takeaway?
MYLES UDLAND: Well, you know, Andy, it’s funny. Every year you come out of this and you always think about tone and topics. And I was thinking about last year’s meeting and you wrote about it a little bit this morning on Yahoo Finance, that was kind of the bottom of sorts. If you go through and you look at a bunch of COVID statistics and you think about where the economy was, where everyone’s attitude was, the market, of course, we now know had bottomed about six weeks before that meeting, which I believe the exact date would have been May 2.
But it was really kind of the absolute trough, the nadir, if you will, of the COVID moment in the United States. And there have been many dark days since then. But now we are talking about more than 50% of the population with at least one shot of a vaccine. We are seeing things reopen. And to that end, the conversation this year was much more a classic Buffett conversation, if you will.
I know, we’ll get to kind of the history lesson, we had at the beginning with 30, the top 20 stocks now versus 30 years ago. Buffett kind of talked about the economy, news of the day. But we had a little soliloquy at the beginning as we did last year, but it wasn’t, you know, it almost felt last year, right guys, like he was trying to pump up the country, pump up himself and try to not be so dour about everything.
But Julia, it did feel like you could sort of get Buffett trying to I don’t know, maybe sound more normal, if that’s a way to say it. At a certain point, all the years run together. But this one didn’t feel maybe so sad, as I think last year’s kind of felt.
JULIA LA ROCHE: Myles, I think you totally nailed it. I actually re-watched last year’s meeting, at least the soliloquy. I re-watched that one this morning, and it was quite in depth. Even though he had a lot of bullish undertones, I think that a lot of folks this time last year were really looking to Warren Buffett because it was just such uncharted territory that we as a globe had entered into.
And including, remember, he didn’t even have his haircut last year like the rest of us. But yeah, I would also agree with you. I think when he kind of brings in these points, a lot of things change. And he is referencing that in the beginning here, and we will get into that, as you just mentioned. But even the world in the last year, talking about the rise of the retail investor.
That theme kept on coming up toward the end, even bringing up Robin Hood gambling within kind of talking about the casino and kind of warning about that. While American companies are a great place to put your money in, invest and safe, you also have to be very careful too. So those were my key takeaways here. Should we bring in, Akiko, what do you think?
AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, Julia, I should point out, this was my first year covering the event. It’s interesting to see just how broad the questions were. Picking up on your point though, about what Warren Buffett said about the Robin Hood trade. What sort of stood out to me in these hours that he answered patiently all the questions was, a bit of a divide that I saw between where the sentiment in the market is right now, where some of the excitement is, versus where both Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger see the opportunities.
When you talk about Bitcoin, for example, no surprise, strong opinion there from Charlie Munger, saying that of course he hates the Bitcoin success and he thinks that modestly what the whole development is testing, and contrary to the interests of civilization, those were his words. I also thought it was interesting the comments on the climate issue. Of course, at the very end of this meeting, we did see that proposal voted down for increased disclosures on climate risk.
But we also heard from Warren Buffett when he was asked about his most recent investment into Chevron. $4.1 billion, his position, about how he felt about that in the discussion of building climate risks, investing in a fossil fuel company. And he really seemed to double down on that, saying that Chevron is not an evil company in the least. He says I have no compunction about owning it or owning it in the least.
In fact, he went further than that and said, if we owned the entire business, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. And that, to me, seems like a bit of a divide from where investor sentiment is right now, which is increased disclosures. And of course, Andy, we’ve got the SEC weighing in on that. So not sure if in the end, Berkshire’s going to have their hand forced essentially because of regulation. I thought that was kind of an interesting commentary too.
ANDY SERWER: OK, thanks, Akiko and Myles and Julia. We’re going to take a quick break, but we’ll be right back after that, much more to discuss here from Los Angeles at the end of the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting for shareholders. Stay tuned.