Buffett celebrates 50th year at Berkshire, defends 3G ties

Sat May 2, 2015 12:01pm EDT
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By Luciana Lopez and Jonathan Stempel

OMAHA, Neb. May 2 (Reuters) - Berkshire Hathaway Inc shareholders on Saturday celebrated Warren Buffett's 50th anniversary running the conglomerate, as the billionaire fielded questions about the company and its future, and explained some business practices.

Berkshire owns more than 80 companies including the Burlington Northern railroad, Geico car insurance, Benjamin Moore paint, Dairy Queen ice cream, Fruit of the Loom underwear, and See's candies, and owns more than $115 billion of stocks.

But Buffett's status as an investing legend, and his plain talk and humor, are key reasons why people trek to Omaha for what Buffett calls "Woodstock for Capitalists."

Berkshire's annual meeting is Omaha's top annual draw other than baseball's College World Series - reflected in hotel rooms that can fetch more than $400 a night and often sell out nearly a year in advance.

Buffett, 84, and his second-in-command Charlie Munger, 91, spend hours at the annual meeting in a downtown arena answering questions from shareholders, analysts and journalists about business, the economy, current events and life.

As is usually the case, no major controversy has been hanging over Berkshire despite its sprawl.

But Buffett did offer a defense of Berkshire's partnerships with Brazil's 3G Capital, which critics say ruthlessly cuts jobs at companies it acquires. In 2013, Berkshire and 3G bought H.J. Heinz Co, which in turn is now buying Kraft Foods Group Inc .

"The 3G people have been successful in building marvelous businesses," Buffett said. "I don't know of any company that has a policy that says we're going to have a lot more people than they need."   Continued...