Often referred to as “Woodstock for Capitalists,” the annual shareholders meeting of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway attracts tens of thousands of investors to Omaha, Nebraska, every year. Millions more watch online.
Here’s what you need to know about Berkshire Hathaway’s 2019 annual shareholders meeting, which will take place on May 4.
Q: What is Berkshire Hathaway and why is its annual shareholders meeting such a big deal?
A: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A) is the sixth-most valuable U.S. company, and likely its most diversified. The conglomerate’s wholly-owned subsidiaries range from the BNSF railroad to GEICO to Dairy Queen to Fruit of the Loom to a collection of energy companies. It also owns a sizable equity portfolio that includes large minority stakes in American Express (AXP), United Continental Holdings (UAL), Delta Air Lines (DAL), Apple (AAPL), Coca-Cola (KO), and banks including Wells Fargo (WFC) and Bank of America (BAC).
Every publicly traded U.S. company has a meeting each year for its shareholders to gather and hear from management, receive a briefing on the company’s recent performance, and vote on current issues facing the company.
But Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting goes above and beyond the average shareholder meeting. More than 30,000 shareholders are expected to attend, and rather than simply going through the motions of appointing the company’s board of directors, selecting auditors, and other standard proxy vote questions, the company’s leaders provide unparalleled access to their strategic thinking.
CEO Warren Buffett, age 88, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, 95, endure six hours of questioning from journalists, analysts, and shareholders alike on a wide range of topics. They address everything from their plans for Berkshire Hathaway, their thoughts on the stock market and political matters, and often general grandfatherly advice about life.
Q: When is Berkshire Hathaway’s 2019 annual meeting?
A: The 2019 annual meeting itself takes place on Saturday, May 4, beginning at 8:30 a.m. C.T. But the entire weekend is packed with activities. Friday is a shareholder shopping day, when many of Berkshire Hathaway’s more than 100 subsidiaries show off their wares in Omaha’s CHI Health Center exhibit hall. That’s followed by a shareholder reception at Borsheims, a jewelry store in Omaha owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Sunday includes a Berkshire Hathaway “Invest in Yourself 5K” race presented by Brooks Running, another wholly-owned subsidiary, and a shareholder steak night at Gorat’s Steakhouse.
Q: How has Berkshire Hathaway been performing?
A: Since Buffett took control of Berkshire Hathaway in 1965, its stock has soared from $19 per share to $321,000 as of Friday’s close. Berkshire Hathaway has made millionaires and billionaires of scores of early investors.
But over the past five, 10, and 15 years, investors would have been better off putting their money in an S&P 500 index (.SPX) fund.
Q: What are some key questions facing Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway this year?
A: Topics likely to come up include candidates for Buffett’s successor as CEO, his willingness to buy back more Berkshire Hathaway stock, and his quest for what he has called an “elephant-size” acquisition. The company is currently sitting on more than $110 billion of cash.
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