Warren Buffett

Berkshire's Annual Meeting: What to Expect From Buffett & Co.

Potential questions Buffett and Munger might face during Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting Saturday could include everything from bank stocks to Bitcoin to share buybacks.

Warren Buffett is headed to Los Angeles for the 2021 edition of the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B, $277.60) annual meeting, which kicks off Saturday, May 1, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. Shareholder questions – to which the chairman's responses are often the highlight of the gathering – are slated to start at 1:30 pm. 

The so-called Woodstock for Capitalists, online for a second year due to the pandemic, is pulling up stakes from Buffett's hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time in more than half a century. Charlie Munger, Buffett's longtime business partner, lives in California. He didn't participate in last year's annual affair, and the two nonagenarians haven't seen each other in more than a year.

Vice chairman Ajit Jain, who heads the holding company's insurance operations – and is thought by some to be Buffett's most likely successor – will be in attendance. Vice chairman Greg Abel, who leads non-insurance operations, will also be there. 

The meeting comes amid a strong run for shares in Berkshire Hathaway, as both classes of stock remain near record highs. The A Class shares, which now trade north of $414,800 a pop, were up 20% for the year-to-date through April 29. The B Class shares, which we mere mortals normally own, gained 19.7% over the same span to $277.60. 

By comparison, the S&P 500 – no slouch itself in 2021 – was up 12.1% for the year-to-date through April 29. 

Buffett and Munger have never cared about short-term price moves, of course – they’re likelier to be hung up on their longer-term underperformance. Berkshire has delivered a total average annual return of 12% over the past three years and 14% over the past five, compared to 19% and 18%, respectively, for the S&P 500.

Nonetheless, BRK.B's strong start surely adds at least a bit of cheer to the proceedings, at least for the shareholders attending online.

Q&A the Highlight of the Day

Potential questions Buffett and Munger might face this year during the question-and-answer session could include everything from bank stocks to Bitcoin to share buybacks.

Berkshire Hathaway greatly pared back its investments in bank stocks in 2020. In the fourth quarter alone, Buffett and fellow portfolio managers Ted Weschler and Todd Combs continued to pare holdings in US Bancorp (USB) and Wells Fargo (WFC), and outright exited positions in JPMorgan Chase (JPM), PNC Financial Services (PNC) and M&T Bank (MTB). 

At the same time, Berkshire initiated positions in Verizon (VZ) and Chevron (CVX) – both of which are components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average – in the final quarter of 2020.

As for cryptocurrency, Buffett is a well-known Bitcoin skeptic, and could very well face questions about the asset class given the tremendous run-up it has enjoyed. 

Lastly, shareholders might be keen to know what happens to the pace of repurchases with BRK stock near all-time highs. Berkshire Hathaway bought about $25 billion worth of its own stock in 2020.

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