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'I blew it': Warren Buffett laments missing out on Google

08 May 2017

Buffett said the San Francisco banking giant's executives failed to act immediately after finding out that employees were creating countless fake and fraudulent bank accounts to meet the company's unrealistic sales goals.

Along with Berkshire vice chairman Charlie Munger, Buffett roundly praised Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and bemoaned never owning a share of his company.

He said some of Berkshire's industrial units saw upticks in business this year, as have credit card companies such as Visa Inc (V.N) and American Express Co (AXP.N), a longtime Berkshire investment.

Berkshire owns about 473 million shares of Wells Fargo.

Buffett also addressed the question of driverless vehicles, saying they could pose a threat to Berkshire-owned auto insurer Geico, and to BNSF if it spread to trucks. "You can't come close", but even if he were promoted, Berkshire would still have "the world's best property-casualty operation", Buffett said. But he also said it would be a "terrible mistake" if capital allocation were not the "main talent" of his successor. The star investor's remarks provided a rare mea culpa and follow his announcement on Thursday that he unloaded a third of his stake in Armonk, N.Y. -based IBM.

"We're the largest holder of the four largest airlines, and that is much more of an industry thought", Buffett said.

Munger added: "You've got to remember railroads were a awful business for decades and decades and decades, and then they got good".

Buffett also admitted he was wrong to think International Business Machines Corp IBM.N "would do better" six years ago, when he started amassing an 81 million share stake.

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Berkshire's two major tech holdings are Apple and IBM.

Buffett also addressed the question of driverless vehicles, saying they could pose a threat to Berkshire-owned auto insurer Geico, and to BNSF if it spread to trucks.

The investment conglomerate adds value through relief, responded Buffett, who noted that Berkshire does a lot of the dirty work for its portfolio companies.

"We would have invested an additional $15 billion, and 3G an additional $15 billion, if a friendly agreement had been reached", Buffett said.

But he said Berkshire now has a slight preference for trying to take tax losses, which could have less value if lawmakers in Washington reduce the 35 per cent corporate tax rate.

"The main problem was they didn't act when they learned about it", Buffet told reporters at his annual shareholder meeting this weekend in Omaha. It's the company's largest shareholder. Bill Gates is there too.

Many hundreds of shareholders started lining up outside the CenturyLink Center, including several who said they got there almost five hours before doors opened at about 6:45 a.m.