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“The Warren Buffett twilight show”

Warren Buffett, head of the Berkshire Hathaway investment fund in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 2.
Warren Buffett, head of the Berkshire Hathaway investment fund in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 2. JOHANNES EISELE / AFP

Profits and losses. There was a strange atmosphere floating around on Saturday, May 2, in the sports hall of Omaha, Nebraska. On the stage, two men sat at a distance behind a large table and, in the hall, 17,000 empty seats. The most famous financial event in the United States was sold out only on the Internet. Coronavirus forces, Warren Buffett spoke for four hours in front of a deserted room. Its usual 40,000 annual fans gathered in front of their screens to hear the prophecies of the “Oracle of Omaha”, the man who, in his sixty-year career, has amassed one of the greatest fortunes in the world, just by the relevance of its investments. His group, Berkshire Hathaway, claims $ 250 billion (€ 228 billion) in combined revenue and nearly 380,000 employees.

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At 89 years old, Warren Buffett always has good foot good eye. But the mood this year was something twilight. His lifelong accomplice, Charlie Munger, 96, was excused, confined to California, and the speech itself sounded like a will. For 1 hour 45 minutes, the investor painted a portrait of America, of the pioneers from 1720 to the present day, flying over the innumerable crises that plunged the country into mourning, from the civil war to the financial crisis of 2008, including the Spanish flu, the crisis of 1929 and the two world wars… to deduce that the best period, in terms of prosperity, was that of today and that “America is getting [sortait] always “.

Mystery of succession

America maybe, but Berkshire Hathaway? When he broached this chapter, he had to admit a failure. He, who had always been suspicious of air transport, returned there in 2016, becoming one of the main shareholders of the country’s major companies, such as American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines. In April 2020, he sold all of these stakes in a disaster. Also in 2016, it released $ 37 billion to acquire Precision Castparts, a supplier of aerospace parts.

In total, the businessman, who still leaves the mystery hanging over his succession, has recorded nearly $ 50 billion in losses for Berkshire Hathaway with the current economic crisis. If the latter continues, with its procession of tens of millions of unemployed, it is the foundation of the country’s economy, and of Mr. Buffett’s investments, which will be hit: consumption. For the oldest investor in the world, this is not a good time to pass the hand.

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