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Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Buffett says he's open to buying firms anywhere


Billionaire Warren Buffett says that his investment company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc is willing to buy companies anywhere in the world if the circumstances are right.

Berkshire announced its first purchase of a company based outside the US on Friday, and Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger said the acquisition of Israel-based Iscar Metalworking Cos probably won't be the last foreign purchase for the Omaha-based company.

"There are dozens of countries in which we would be happy to buy the right business," Buffett said.

During yesterday's news conference Buffett and Munger especially praised South Korean and Japanese businesses. A day earlier, Buffett and Munger spent more than five hours answering questions at the company's annual meeting.

"Our problem outside the United States is we aren't all that well known," said Munger, 82.

Both men said they hope Berkshire's announcement that will pay US$4 billion for 80 percent of Iscar, which makes metal cutting tools, will help raise the company's profile overseas. Berkshire owns a diverse mix of more than 60 companies, including insurance, furniture, carpet, jewelry, restaurants and utility firms. And it has major investments in such companies as H&R Block Inc, Anheuser-Busch Cos and Coca-Cola Co.

Buffett and Munger said they have a financial incentive to shop overseas.

"We don't find screaming bargains in the United States anywhere," Buffett said.

Berkshire does own securities in Europe but Buffett said the company won't disclose them until it has to.

Buffett said Berkshire's criteria for foreign investments doesn't differ from the list that has been published in the company's annual report for years. Berkshire is interested in simple businesses with at least US$75 million in earnings, a proven track record, management in place and an offering price.

But Munger said there are some additional considerations.

"We don't like kleptocracies," Munger said.

A kleptocracy is a country where theft is common in government and business, he said.

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