Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett fielded a question from an unusual place at today’s annual shareholders meeting—the UK House of Lords.
A moderator read a question from Jitesh Gadhia, a Conservative member of the House of Lords who is also a Berkshire shareholder. Gadhia asked for Buffett’s thoughts on the UK and European markets, and—can’t hurt to ask, right?—if he had any advice about solving the Brexit debacle.
While Buffett didn’t offer advice, his answer was revealing. “I’m not an Englishman, but I have a feeling it was a mistake to vote to leave,” he said. “But it doesn’t destroy my appetite in the least for making a large acquisition in the place.”
He recently sat with the London-based Financial Times for an uncharacteristically lengthy profile (paywall)—a marketing move, he said today, to place himself in front of an audience he “hoped would think of Berkshire Hathaway more often when businesses are for sale.”
Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger have an oft-repeated maxim: Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. The surplus of fear in the UK these days makes it an ideal shopping place for Buffett.
“The immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis provided a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to deploy capital at scale in marquee names, like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, generating handsome returns,” Gadhia, an investment banker by trade, wrote recently in the Telegraph (paywall). “[A] disorderly Brexit might create another ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, this time to acquire sizeable UK assets for ‘pennies in the pound.’”
“It just strikes me as a horrible problem and I’m glad it’s theirs, not mine,” Munger said.
“But if I called you tomorrow and said we had a deal in the UK—” Buffett asked, before Munger interrupted: “Absolutely. I would go in there in a minute.”