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Thursday, September 30, 2010

BLOOMBERG: Buffett, Gates Plug BYD Cars, Philanthropy on China Trip: Video

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg)

Bloomberg's Stephen Engle reports on a visit by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett and Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates to China.

Buffett said the meeting he and Gates had in Beijing with 50 Chinese leaders in business and philanthropy “was a complete success,” according to a release from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Source: Bloomberg)

Running time 01:40

-0- Sep/30/2010 01:21 GMT

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CNBC: Warren Buffett Calls China Philanthropy Meeting a 'Tremendous Success'

Published: Wednesday, 29 Sep 2010 | 5:52 PM ET

By: Alex Crippen

Warren Buffett calls today's meeting in Beijing with 50 Chinese business and philanthropy leaders a "tremendous success" as he and Bill Gates "learned a great deal about the good work that is already underway" in China.

As Becky Quick told us this morning in a live report on CNBC's "Squawk Box," even though China's booming economy has produced a bumper crop of the newly wealthy, philanthropy hasn't grown as quickly.

There have been reports that some of those invited to the meeting didn't attend because they were concerned Buffett and Gates might put them on the spot with an embarrassing challenge to join their highly-publicized "Giving Pledge" in the United States.

Reuters has noted that many rich Chinese are traditionally reluctant to discuss their wealth in public because they are "fearful of exposing fortunes larger than the government or rivals had calculated, inviting unwanted attention from tax collectors and hatred from millions of have-nots."

There has also been a sense that it is the government's responsibility to provide assistance to those who need help.

In a news release from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about today's meeting, both Buffett and Gates emphasize that while they wanted to share their enthusiasm for philanthropy, they were not in China to solicit pledges or to lecture their guests on how they should increase their giving.

Instead, the two men "stressed that China would need to find its own approach to large philanthropy, appropriate to its unique situation." They also note that home-grown giving is already taking root in China.

Gates is quoted as saying, "People are doing some very good thinking about how their good fortune can have a positive impact on China and the world."

The release ends with this quote from Buffett: "Recently, Bill and I wrote that we expected China to surprise the world in how it embraces philanthropy. If Bill and I could contribute to encouraging the very fortunate to follow their desire to do more, then our trip was a complete success,

Current Berkshire stock prices:

Class B: [BRK.B 82.44 -0.63 (-0.76%) ]

Class A: [BRK.A 123617.0 -878.00 (-0.71%) ]


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CNBC: Becky Quick with Warren Buffett in China


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Airtime: Thurs. Sept. 30 2010 | 12:20 AM ET

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates tell CNBC's Becky Quick why they're meeting with China's richest to discuss philanthropy.



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BUSINESSWEEK: Buffett Says Berkshire Hathaway ‘Well-Equipped’ for Succession

By Bloomberg News

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said the company’s management is “well-equipped” for when he and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger step down.

“We talk with the directors every time we meet,” Buffett, 80, said in Beijing today in an interview recorded with state broadcaster China Central Television. “Majority of our time is spent talking about the succession question because it’s enormously important.”

Buffett, in his fifth decade as head of Berkshire Hathaway, said last year he had four candidates to succeed him as chief investment officer, without identifying the individuals. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company also said Buffett’s roles as the company’s chairman, chief executive officer and chief investment officer will be split among at least three people upon his death or retirement.

Berkshire’s directors are content with the successors that they’ve talked about, Buffett said today.

“We’re very well-equipped for succession,” he said. “Just don’t want it to happen too soon.”

Buffett and Munger traveled to China this week to tour the facilities of automaker BYD Co., in which Berkshire holds a 9.9 percent stake. Bill Gates, who joined them on the trip, and Buffett also were scheduled to meet with wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs today to discuss philanthropy in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

Berkshire Directors

Berkshire’s directors have a financial interest in making sure a replacement takes Buffett’s place if they see his abilities declining, he told CCTV today.

“We have managers who have done very well into their 80s but we have some other managers who have declined in their abilities in their low 70s,” Buffett said. “I’m not sure I could retire because I never really went to work. I enjoy so much doing what I do.”

A possible candidate to replace Buffett is Li Lu, the hedge-fund manager who helped Berkshire invest in Shenzhen, China-based BYD, the Wall Street Journal reported in July. Munger told the newspaper “it’s a foregone conclusion” that Li probably would become a top investment official at Berkshire.

Li, former president of the Student Congress on Tiananmen Square, graduated in 1993 from Columbia University, where Buffett went to business school. The money manager met Munger after college, and the two exchanged thoughts on investing, according to an essay Li wrote for the China Entrepreneur Magazine in May and posted on the website of his hedge fund, Himalaya Capital.

--With assistance from Feifei Shen in Beijing. Editors: John Liu, Michael Tighe.



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CNBC: Warren Buffett to CNBC: Decision to Buy More BYD Shares "Would Depend on Price"

Published: Wednesday, 29 Sep 2010 | 11:03 AM ET
By: Alex Crippen
Executive Producer

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates appear at a BYD media event in Beijing.

Warren Buffett tells CNBC that any decision by Berkshire Hathaway to buy a bigger stake in China's BYD "would depend on the price."

He made the comment in an airborne interview with CNBC's Becky Quick, who is traveling in China with Buffett, Bill Gates, and a delegation of Berkshire officials.

Buffett has also made it clear that Berkshire wouldn't try to increase its current 10 percent stake in the electric car maker without the support of BYD's management.

Reuters says China Business News is reporting that Buffett met with BYD officials in private last night, and a "major topic" was the possibility of Berkshire raising its stake.

Buffett also reportedly told China's CCTV that he would "probably hold BYD stakes 10 years from now."

Those reports, and Buffett's public endorsements, are helping to dispel speculation Buffett had come to China to reduce his stake in BYD now that the stock is off its highs of the year, amid forecasts of lower sales and sliding market share. There have also been delays in BYD's plans to export electric cars to the United States.

BYD is rallying today in New York trading. After an hour of trading, the ADRs are up 3.6% to $77. The 52-week high: $112.

Current price: [BYDDY 78.35 4.05 (+5.45%) ]

Berkshire's initial 2008 investment of $230 million in BYD is now worth almost $1.5 billion.

Buffett and his traveling companions are expressing great optimism and enthusiasm for BYD, appearing at a number of events to promote the car company and its products.

Current Berkshire stock prices:

Berkshire Portfolio

Class B: [BRK.B 82.888 -0.182 (-0.22%) ]

Class A: [BRK.A 124400.0 -95.00 (-0.08%) ]



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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CNBC: Buffett's Trip Moves to Beijing and Controversial Philanthropy Dinner for Wealthy Chinese

Published: Tuesday, 28 Sep 2010 | 11:00 AM ET
By: Alex Crippen
Executive Producer

Warren Buffett's Billionaires' Road Trip has spent the day in Shenzhen, but most of the attention is going to a dinner to be hosted tomorrow night in Beijing by Buffett and Bill Gates.

A selection of Chinese wealthiest people are on the invitation list, and philanthropy is on the agenda.

Buffett and Gates say they just want to listen and learn about philanthropy in China. They won't be actively seeking donations of pledges.

David Sokol, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates pose for photographs with soccer players in Beijing.
CNBC/Becky Quick
David Sokol, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates pose for photographs with soccer players in China. Becky promises some very interesting video from the event on tomorrow morning's (Wednesday) Squawk.

But the visit, as phrased by Reuters, "has ignored a fierce debate on the merits — and difficulty — of philanthropy and charity for the country's own colorful band of newly wealthy."

The news service notes that many rich Chinese are traditionally reluctant to discuss their wealth in public because they are "fearful of exposing fortunes larger than the government or rivals had calculated, inviting unwanted attention from tax collectors and hatred from millions of have-nots."

CNBC/Becky Quick
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett tour a BYD factory in China

But Reuters also points out that charitable giving is not totally unknown in China: "The top 50 philanthropists donated nearly 3.9 billion yuan ($582.9 million) in total last year, according to the 2009 Hurun Philanthropy List, four times the figure from six years ago."

(The dinner, says Reuters, has been "dubbed by media the 'Ba Bi' — Chinese for 'Barbie' — dinner after the Chinese transliterations of their names.")

The Wall Street Journal also reports today (subscription required) on an "unprecedented public discussion about philanthropy" in China, triggered by the Buffett/Gates visit.

CNBC/Becky Quick
The Berkshire delegation its among BYD managers in China.

CNBC's Becky Quick is traveling with Buffett and Gates and will have extensive coverage of the trip in a series of live reports on CNBC's Squawk Box, starting at 6a ET.

She's also been posting some photographs as part of her Twitter feed.

Current Berkshire stock prices:

Class B: [BRK.B 83.07 0.20 (+0.24%) ]

Class A: [BRK.A 124495.0 275.00 (+0.22%) ]




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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CNBC: Warren Buffett Visits Electric-Car Maker BYD After Warm Welcome to China

Published: Monday, 27 Sep 2010 | 2:13 PM ET

By: Alex Crippen
Executive Producer

Warren Buffett and his traveling companions started their visit to China earlier today in Shenzhen with a show of support for electric-car maker BYD.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought a 10 percent stake in the company in 2008 for $230 million. Since then, it has soared nearly seven times in value, but lately the company has been struggling a bit. BYD has reduced its sales forecast for the year by 25 percent. (There are reports BYD has denied speculation that Buffett plans to sell some or all of the stake now that the stock price is off its peak.)

Warren Buffett is the center of a whirlwind of activity and attention at a welcome dinner held earlier today in Shenzhen.
CNBC/Becky Quick
Warren Buffett is the center of a whirlwind of activity and attention at a welcome dinner held earlier today in Shenzhen.

AP describes Buffett's BYD visit today as a "celebration" that was a "colorful melange of capitalism — Chinese-style and western" featuring "hundreds of managers" from BYD dealerships who gave Buffett a standing ovation and "snapped pictures as he walked in with (BYD founder) Wang Chuanfu while bevies of ladies clad in red and gilt gowns stood alongside."

AP notes, however, that despite the "strong show of support," BYD "looks hard-pressed to meet its goal of exporting electric vehicles to the U.S. before the year's end."

CNBC's Becky Quick is covering what we're calling the "Billionaires' Road Trip," which includes Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Buffett's longtime business partner Charlie Munger. (They're also Berkshire directors.)

She filed this report to CNBC's Squawk Box early this morning, describing their "hectic" arrival in China and the BYD ceremonies.

She is also posting updates and photos on her Twitter feed. Watch "Squawk Box" Wednesday morning starting at 6am ET for Becky's live reports from Beijing. We're expecting to see video from inside the BYD factories that Buffett will be touring.

Warren Buffett poses for a picture during a refueling stop in Alaska as he leads a Berkshire Hathaway delegation to China.
CNBC/Becky Quick
Warren Buffett poses for a picture during a refueling stop in Alaska as he leads a Berkshire Hathaway delegation to China.

Current Berkshire stock prices:

Class B: [BRK.B 82.87 -0.45 (-0.54%) ]

Class A: [BRK.A 124220.0 -630.00 (-0.5%) ]



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REUTERS: China's BYD showcases clean car tech for Warren Buffett

Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:01am EDT

* Billionaire backer in Shenzhen for BYD ceremonies

* Buffett sitting on big returns from 2008 BYD investment

* Buffett, Bill Gates promoting philantropy in China

By Alison Leung

SHENZHEN, China, Sept 27 (Reuters) - China's BYD (1211.HK) rolled out the welcome mat for billionaire investor and backer Warren Buffett, flying him to its south China base on Monday for a series of events to showcase its clean car initiatives.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) has profited handsomely from a 10 percent stake it owns in BYD, which has jumped nearly seven times in value since Buffett purchased it for $230 million in 2008.

BYD invited Buffett to Shenzhen for a signing ceremony that will see the company build an energy storage power station with China Southern Power Grid, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Buffett, the world's third richest man with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $47 billion, will also witness the market debut of BYD's F3DM electric hybrid car nationwide, Xinhua said citing a BYD spokesman.

Reuters could not attend the event due to restricted access.

Buffett, who arrived in Shenzhen on a jet chartered by BYD, will also attend a ceremony to mark BYD's sales of its 1 millionth car, according to the China-based Phoenix net website, adding that BYD had spent several million yuan to bring Buffett to visit its China headquarters.

Buffett is scheduled to visit BYD's plants in Shenzhen and the city of Huizhou on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Beijing where he will co-host a charity banquet with Microsoft (MSFT.O) founder Bill Gates to meet about 50 wealthy Chinese to share ideas about philanthropy, according to Xinhua.

His trip will end in with a visit to the central China city of Changsha, where he will visit a BYD electric bus plant.

The trip by Buffett, 80, marks his first to BYD, almost two years after Berkshire's affiliate MidAmerican Energy bought a 10 percent stake in the company.

But BYD, whose name stands for Build Your Dreams, has seen its rising star sputter recently, prompting it to cut its annual sales target by 25 percent to 600,000 this year.

It is hoping to reignite growth in the fourth quarter with the launch of new models and the traditional peak season on car sales in China in September and October.

NEW ENERGY

MidAmerican was reported to be interested in BYD's research capability in rapid charge and rechargeable battery technology and power storage technology when it acquired its stake in 2008.

BYD's interim profit more than doubled to 2.42 billion yuan ($361 million) but second quarter rose only 2.6 percent due to slower car sales.

China overtook the United States last year to become the world's largest car market, as sales soared under government incentives designed to boost spending during the global downturn. In recent months, however, sales growth has slowed as Beijing has taken steps to cool a racing economy.

BYD reported a 19 percent fall in August car sales, lagging a 18.7 percent rise in industry-wide shipments to dealers.

Sluggish sales in the past few months and rising inventory levels have forced several BYD dealers in Beijing and other areas to pull out of its sales network, local media have said.

BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu dismissed the reports as exaggerated but the car maker slashed its 2010 target by 25 percent in August. [ID:nTOE67303G] ($1=6.703 Yuan) (Editing by Doug Young and Lincoln Feast)

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