(Reuters) - Warren Buffett, chairman of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), said on Wednesday he thinks Coca-Cola’s (KO.N) controversial equity compensation plan was excessive, but that Berkshire Hathaway abstained in the shareholders vote.
Earlier on Wednesday, Coca-Cola said 83 percent of shareholders approved the plan. Critics, most notably activist investor David Winters, said the plan would dilute the holdings of current shareholders too much.
As of December 31, Berkshire owned 400 million shares of the company, just over 9 percent of the shares outstanding.
Buffett, in an interview with CNBC, said he and partner Charlie Munger did not want to vote against the plan because he did not want to show disapproval of management. He said he has enormous respect for Coca-Cola’s chief executive, Muhtar Kent.
“I love Coke, I love the management, I love the directors, so I didn’t want to vote ‘No’,” Buffett said. “It’s kind of un-American to vote ‘No’ at a Coke meeting. I didn’t want to express any disapproval of management but we did disapprove of the plan. The plan compared to past plans was a significant change.”
Buffett said he has no intention of selling any Coca-Cola shares.
He said activist investors are getting stronger.
“The CEOs are terrified of activists. I can tell you that,” Buffett said. “They are all talking to investment bankers and lawyers and saying, ‘What do we do about this?’”
He denied he had “soured” on his enormous investment in IBM (IBM.N), and said Berkshire bought some more shares this year, although the purchases did not come after IBM’s most recent earnings report. He said he would not “rule out” future IBM stocks buys.
Buffett was in New York for lunch with an anonymous bidder who paid $1,000,100 to win last year’s “Power Lunch with Warren Buffett” auction benefiting San Francisco’s Glide Foundation.
Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Leslie Adler