Buffett Says He's Not Buying Stock
By Jeffrey Hodgson
LONDON (Reuters) - Legendary investor Warren Buffett on Tuesday said
his Berkshire Hathaway investment company had
been doing little buying in stock markets and suggested shares remained overvalued even after recent falls.
The billionaire stock picker also said the U.S. economy was in the grip
of sharp slowdown which had already begun to hit some of
``We're not doing a lot of buying. We're buying more planes than we are stocks,'' Buffett told a press conference here to promote Berkshire's Executive Jet unit.
Asked when it would be a good time to begin buying stocks following recent falls, Buffett said ``When businesses sell in the market for less than they're worth.''
Dubbed ``the sage of Omaha,'' Buffett has became one of the world's
wealthiest men through savvy investments he made as head of Nebraska-based
which holds large stakes in Coca-Cola Co., Gillette Co. and Washington Post Co..
Buffett owns just over 30 percent of Berkshire, which made him No. 4
on Forbes magazine's global rich list last year, behind Bill Gates and
Paul Allen of Microsoft
Corp. and Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp..
The Berkshire chief executive drew heavy criticism in recent years for
his decision not to invest in technology, which he saw as overvalued and
due for a fall. Instead,
he opted to stick to businesses with solid earnings which he felt were out of favor.
His decision was vindicated when Berkshire reported net profits up 114 percent for 2000 even as tech markets crashed.
Buffett told reporters he had not bought any technology stocks despite the sharp fall in their prices.
Asked about the prospects for the U.S. economy, Buffett said he did
not know if there would be a recession, but that U.S. was in the grip of
a ``sharp'' slowdown
and he would ``be surprised if it ends tomorrow.''
``There's no question there's been a significant slowdown in the American economy which hits a great many of the Berkshire Hathaway businesses,'' Buffett said.
OLD ECONOMY CUTTING EDGE
Those businesses include such unfashionable ``old-economy'' businesses
as paint, carpet and insulation manufacturers which Berkshire bought at
the end of 2000
and early this year.
In his most recent letter to shareholders, Buffett described them as ``cutting-edge industries'' and jokingly urged shareholders to ``control your excitement.''
Buffett said the wide holdings of the firm gave the company insight into the direction of the wider economy.
He said Berkshire's jewelry retailers had begun to see a slowdown last November and that had carried through to its furniture businesses earlier this year.
But he said the slowdown had not yet begun to impact the NetJets program
of Berkshire's Executive Jet Inc. unit. NetJets is a program of fractional
ownership, a sophisticated form of time-sharing in which buyers share a pool of planes, buying as big or small a block of access as they want.
``It hasn't hit so far, and I can tell you it has hit our other businesses,'' Buffett said.
``The real money in this business will be if anybody cancels a plane
and I find about it early, it would be a good stock to short probably...it's
a great leading
indicator,'' he added with a laugh.
Asked if he had any advice for investors, Buffett suggested they follow his example and ``do what you understand.''
(With additional reporting by Anna Willard)