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Buffett’s Berkshire has $116 billion to spend on a deal

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Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is itching to do a massive acquisition, but is having a difficult time due to elevated valuations.

The Oracle of Omaha explained his buying criteria for deals in his 2017 annual letter to shareholders released on Saturday.

“In our search for new stand-alone businesses, the key qualities we seek are durable competitive strengths; able and high-grade management; good returns on the net tangible assets required to operate the business; opportunities for internal growth at attractive returns; and, finally, a sensible purchase price,” he wrote. “That last requirement proved a barrier to virtually all deals we reviewed in 2017, as prices for decent, but far from spectacular, businesses hit an all-time high.”

At year-end last year Berkshire Hathaway had $116 billion in cash and short-term Treasury bills compared to $86.4 billion at the end of 2016, the letter revealed.

“Berkshire’s goal is to substantially increase the earnings of its non-insurance group. For that to happen, we will need to make one or more huge acquisitions. We certainly have the resources to do so,” he wrote. “This extraordinary liquidity earns only a pittance and is far beyond the level Charlie and I wish Berkshire to have. Our smiles will broaden when we have redeployed Berkshire’s excess funds into more productive assets.”

Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway is a big beneficiary of corporate tax reform. The tax overhaul, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December, lowers the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent.

For 2017 the company had a $65 billion gain in its net worth or increase in its shareholder equity.

“The $65 billion gain is nonetheless real – rest assured of that. But only $36 billion came from Berkshire’s operations,” he wrote. “The remaining $29 billion was delivered to us in December when Congress rewrote the U.S. Tax Code.”

Buffett, 87, added in the letter he will still handle the big acquisition decisions for the company, along with Charlie Munger, 94.

“I’ve saved the best for last. Early in 2018, Berkshire’s board elected Ajit Jain and Greg Abel as directors of Berkshire and also designated each as Vice Chairman. Ajit is now responsible for insurance operations, and Greg oversees the rest of our businesses,” he wrote. “Charlie and I will focus on investments and capital allocation.”

That mention at the end of the letter was the extent of Buffett’s discussion of a succession plan he put in place in January.



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‘Roaring 20s’ after the pandemic? Big banks warn be careful what you wish for

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GameStop jumps more than 100% even as hedge funds cover short bets, scrutiny of rally intensifies

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Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of GameStop surged again Wednesday, continuing the streak of wild swings for the stock as several high-profile short sellers said they had backed away from their positions.

The name traded at roughly $342 per share when it was briefly halted at about 11:19 a.m. ET, up almost 131% from Tuesday’s close and giving the company a market cap of about $24 billion. The stock traded as high as $380 per share in premarket trading.

The latest move higher comes as some of the high-profile short sellers of GameStop, including Melvin Capital and Citron, announced that they covered most or all of their positions.

The stock lost some of its premarket gains after the short sellers made their announcements, but the shares rebounded to new highs shortly before the market open.

GameStop’s nearly vertical surge over the past week has come as retail traders, many of whom have documented their moves on the social media site Reddit, have piled into the stock and call options. The spiking share price has helped to create a stock squeeze, where shorts and options dealers are forced to buy shares of a rising stock to cover their positions, resulting in a feedback loop that drives the stock even higher.

The name appeared to get a boost in extended trading on Tuesday after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted out the link to the Reddit board where much of the discussion has taken place.

The video game retailer, which had a market cap of less than $4 billion at the end of last week, was the most traded stock on the market by value Tuesday, according to Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid.

GameStop’s rapid rise has drawn comparisons to speculative trading during the tech bubble of the late 1990s and led many Wall Street veterans to warn investors about the potential for significant losses.

Hedge fund manager Michael Burry, who reported holding 1.7 million shares of the stock at the end of September, said in a now-deleted tweet that the rise was “unnatural, insane, and dangerous.” Burry also told Bloomberg News that he did not have a current long or short position in the stock.

William Galvin, Massachusetts’ top securities regulator, told Barron’s that the trading in GameStop could be “systemically wrong.”

Bank of America raised its price target on the stock to just $10 per share on Wednesday, saying in a note to clients that the increased share price could help GameStop’s turnaround plans but presented a risk for investors.

“While it is difficult to know how much very high short interest and retail ownership … could continue to put upward pressure on shares, we think fundamentals will again factor into valuation,” the note said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment to CNBC.

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this story.

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PepsiCo CEO, top UN officials discuss future of food systems

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[The stream is slated to start at 11:15 ET. Please refresh the page if you do not see a player above at that time.]

More than 1 billion tons of food is wasted every year. And agriculture is still a major driving force of climate change.

With world leaders looking to ensure the post-coronavirus recovery is one that’s sustainable and inclusive, the need to improve farming and food systems has never been more urgent.

To discuss the key issues at stake, CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick speaks with a panel of experts at the virtual Davos Agenda, including:

  • Dongyu Qu, director-general of the the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization
  • Wiebe Draijer, chairman of the managing board at Rabobank
  • Ramon Laguarta, CEO of PepsiCo
  • Carlos Alvarado Quesada, president of Costa Rica
  • Agnes Kalibata, special envoy for the United Nations’ Food Systems Summit
  • Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations

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