The topic arose at Berkshire Hathaway's shareholder meeting in Omaha, where Buffett talked about his struggles to find ways to deploy the company's enormous hoard of more than $90 billion in cash, at a time when it has been hard to find worthy investments at an attractive price. "But they didn't act".
"If you go to a dentist, if you hire a plumber, in all the professions, there is value added by the professionals as a group compared to doing it yourself or just randomly picking laymen", Buffett said.
Asked why Berkshire Hathaway bought Apple stock, Buffett said, "The shares when we bought them at least were much more reasonable in relation to current earnings". He also said rising health care costs, rather than high taxes, were the biggest drag on US businesses.
"They may become like cattle cars", he said, "but a significant percentage (of passengers) would rather be treated that way and fly for X than have far more leg room (and other benefits) and fly for X plus 25 percent".
Despite softer sales in the most recent quarter, consumer loyalty to the iPhone is "huge", Buffett said.
"We need a money mind as CEO", said Buffett, who has no plans to retire.
The potential in India is incredible now, Buffett said. The party's leadership has promised that the new American Health Care Act, which faces a likely overhaul and uncertain passage in the Senate, would address growing health care costs.
And if Berkshire does decide to pay dividends, it would have to commit to maintaining that payout over time, Buffett said, as cutting it could have disastrous consequences for the company's share price. "So they have gained a 5- or 6-point advantage", he said. He added that healthcare costs have rose much faster in the US than the rest of the world and warned it will "go up a lot more". He said the company had too much cash it could not reasonably deploy.
He had long disdained the industry, which had gone through many bankruptcies, but said he is confident it will not resort to "suicidally competitive" pricing strategies that could spell doom.
Information for this article was contributed by Noah Buhayar, Laura J. Keller, Jordyn Holman and Katherine Chiglinsky of Bloomberg News; and by Josh Funk of The Associated Press.
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