WRAPUP 1-Buffett defends Coke, BNSF at Berkshire annual meeting
By Luciana Lopez
OMAHA, Neb. May 3 (Reuters) - Warren Buffett on Saturday defended his recent controversial vote on executive pay at Coca-Cola Co and disappointing performance at railroad BNSF as investors grilled him on his Berkshire Hathaway Inc conglomerate at its annual shareholder meeting.
The investment guru was peppered with questions at the meeting, part of a mostly festive weekend that Buffett calls "Woodstock for Capitalists," following concerns that Berkshire last year missed Buffett's five-year growth target for the first time in his 49 years at the helm.
Buffett, 83, and his partner and company Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, 90, faced off with the audience and a hand-picked panel often excusing recent worries at the sprawling conglomerate.
"Over any cycle we will over-perform, but there's no guarantee on that," he said, saying that Berkshire is designed to perform best when markets are at their worst - unlike last year's 30 percent jump in the S&P 500.
At the start, Buffett was immediately questioned about Berkshire's abstention in the Coca-Cola equity compensation plan vote.
Buffett said last week that he thought Coca-Cola's controversial equity compensation plan was excessive, but Berkshire Hathaway abstained in the shareholders vote.
That revelation drew sharp criticism in the run-up to the meeting - particularly since Buffett has in the past called options wasteful and akin to a free lottery ticket.
On Saturday, Buffett said that "going to war" would likely not have been productive, and that Berkshire's abstention sent a clear message. Continued...