Buffett says tax law makes owning stocks more attractive

Berkshire Hathaway CEO predicts a 'bad ending' for cryptocurrencies and says stocks don't look overvalued compared to interest rates

Jan 10, 2018 @ 11:05 am

By Bloomberg News

Warren Buffett said the U.S. tax cut will make companies more valuable by giving owners a bigger share of profits.

"People who own the businesses, they now own 20% more of the domestic earnings," Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in an interview on CNBC Wednesday.

Describing the change as a "big deal," he cited Berkshire Hathaway's BNSF Railway as an example.

"The government doesn't own the assets of the business," Buffett said. "We own 100% of the assets of BNSF, but we don't own 100% of the profits. And we went from 65% to 79% of the profits of BNSF and that is a more than 20% increase."

Still, when asked about whether he would have pushed lawmakers to vote for or against the legislation, he chose another route.

"I would have had a different bill," he said. "If I did it as a representative of Berkshire shareholders, I would have had to vote for it."

Here are some of his other comments:

On bitcoin:

• Buffett said he's no fan of cryptocurrencies and is confident that the run-up in their value is fleeting.

• "In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say almost with certainty that they will come to a bad ending. Now when it happens, or how or anything else, I don't know. But I know this: If I could buy a five-year put on every one of the cryptocurrencies, I'd be glad to do it but I would never short a dime's worth."

On the stock market:

• Stocks "are not richly valued relative to interest rates," Buffett said.

• "Net we're buying," he said. "We're basically buyers over time. There could be conditions under which we're sellers. For one thing, the money keeps coming so we basically keep buying."

On IBM:

• Buffett was asked whether he's been a buyer or seller of the stock. Berkshire owned 37 million shares of the company as of the end of September.

• "It was advantageous if you had a loss in shares and we did in some of IBM, it was advantageous to sell last year rather than this year," he said. "It would certainly mean that if we had a high cost of IBM that we were selling, we would have sold it last year, and if we had low cost, we would have waited until this year. And we had some of both."

Berkshire Vice Chairman Charles Munger joined Buffett in the interview and also addressed succession at the conglomerate, saying shareholders probably have "seven or more good years coming out of Warren."

Asked how many they had for him, Munger, 94, said: "Not very many."

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