The Korea Herald


Disasters will not have long-term effect on Japanese economy, Buffett says

By 최희석

Published : March 22, 2011 - 10:52

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DAEGU ― The disasters that struck Japan will not change the economic prospects of the country, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chief executive Warren Buffett said Monday.

Speaking at a press conference held on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony for TaeguTec’s second plant in Daegu, Buffett said that while such adversity leaves effects, they would temporary and limited in the long term.

TeaguTec is an industrial tool and tungsten product manufacturer wholly owned by the Israel-based IMC Group, 80 percent of whose shares are held by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

“My thoughts are exactly as they were in the U.S. after 9/11. I went on TV that week along with Jack Welch (former GE CEO), and I said that as horrible as the events had been, they did not change the future nor the economic prospects of the U.S.,” Buffett said.

“Same in Japan; it is a blow, an enormous blow, but the people of Japan have the same resources and desires as they had two or three weeks ago. It will not change the economic future of Japan.” 

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffett (right) dressed in hanbok, addresses a press conference at TaeguTec in Daegu on Monday. On the left is IMC Group chairman Eitan Wertheimer. (Park Hyun koo/The Korea Herald) Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffett (right) dressed in hanbok, addresses a press conference at TaeguTec in Daegu on Monday. On the left is IMC Group chairman Eitan Wertheimer. (Park Hyun koo/The Korea Herald)

He added that a country can emerge stronger in the years following such adversity, citing Korea’s experience during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, saying that the period “turned out to not to be selling stocks but to become very rich.”

“If I had Japanese stocks I would not sell them, and if I had money to invest and liked a company, I would not look at it differently now from I did 10 days ago,” Buffett said.

Buffett, now in Korea for the second time, also met with President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul and will be leaving for India Tuesday.

Regarding his investments in Korea, Buffett said that his company still holds stakes in the steelmaker POSCO and that of a much smaller company.

“I believe POSCO was the only one Berkshire Hathaway owned at the time (his last visit in 2007), we still own the same amount,” Buffett said.

“I don’t think there are more than three or four companies outside the U.S. we have invested more than $1 billion in, and POSCO is one of them.”

Describing POSCO as an “incredible” steel company, Buffett said that it represented a major investment for Berkshire Hathaway. He also said that he still had shares of a Korean small company, declining to identify it citing the effects his words would have on its stock prices.

In answer to his views and any potential plans his company may have about Samsung Electronics, he said that his company doesn’t have shares in an electronics firm in any country, but that does not rule out changes in the future.

Regarding his company’s plans in general, Buffett said that he prefers to hold about $20 billion of this company’s $38 billion in cash, and that he is now looking for large companies to invest in.

“The bigger the better; large companies appear to me and Korea has a number of big companies, so it is a hunting ground.

Regarding the escalation of tension between South Korea and North Korea seen over the past months, Buffett said that there have not been any developments that would make him want to reduce his holdings in Korea.

He added that his company does not focus on potential investments based on industry or sectors, but that Korea has many good companies that would “fit very well within Berkshire Hathaway.”

“It would narrow the range of opportunities, I look at companies that I have some idea about what it will look like in five, 10 years,” Buffett said.

“When I get in the office, I hope that I get a call from someone with a wonderful business, I would love to hear from someone in Korea, but I would also like to hear from 20 other countries.”

By Choi He-suk (

<관련 기사>

워런 버핏 "日지진 영향 크지 않을 것"

대구를 두번째로 방문한 워런 버핏(81) 버크셔 해서웨이 회장은 21일 "일본 대지진으로 당장은 몰라도 (중장기적으로) 영향이 크지 않을 것"이라는 견해를 나타냈다.

버핏 회장은 이날 오전 대구 수성구의 한 호텔에서 김범일 대구시장과 조찬을 함께하면서 "세계경제가 일본 대지진 영향으로 이익을 볼지 또는 손해를 볼지  분석하고 있으나 제로섬 게임은 아니라고 생각한다"며 "일본 대지진 영향이 상당하지만 (중장기적으로 볼 때) 크지 않다고 본다"고 밝힌 것으로 전해졌다.

버핏 회장은 조찬 자리에서 김 시장에게 남북관계 진전상황을 묻고 "외국  도시를 두번째 방문하기는 대구가 처음으로 대구텍 사업을 대구시와 시민들이 많이 도와줘 감사하다"고 밝혔다.

감색 수트에 빨간 넥타이를 맨 버핏은 예정된 조찬시간보다 10분 일찍 나타나 먼저 온 김 시장과 악수하며 "코리언 타임으로 일찍 나왔다"고 농담을 건넸다.

한편 이날 조찬에서 김 시장은 버핏 회장에게 대구ㆍ경북이 추진 중인 미래성장산업으로서 첨단의료복합단지에 대한 적극적인 투자를 요청했다.

김 시장은 팔공산의 명물인 '관봉석조여래좌상'(속칭 갓바위) 사진을  보여주면서 "이 불상은 중생의 병을 고쳐주는 약사여래"라며 "대구가 첨단의료복합단지를 유치할 줄 조상들이 아셨나 보다"고 설명했다.

버핏 회장은 이 같은 설명을 재미있게 듣고 "투자 여부를 깊이있게 논의해 보자"고 말한 것으로 전해졌다.

조찬에는 버핏 회장과 김 대구시장, 에이탄 베르타이머 IMC그룹 회장 부부,  모셰 샤론 대구텍 사장, IMC그룹 관계자 등 10명이 함께했다.

30여분에 걸쳐 식사를 마친 버핏 회장은 리무진에 탑승해 대구 달성군 가창면 소재 대구텍 제2공장 착공식에 참석하기 위해 호텔을 출발했다.

호텔 로비에서 버핏은 "어릴 때부터 당신을 존경하며 만나고 싶었다"는 서울 이화여고 재학생 이주홍(16)양에게 사인 해주고 함께 기념촬영을 했다.