Buffett: The Eurozone Is Flawed
Nov 21st 2011 11:18AM
Updated Nov 21st 2011 11:20AM
This article has been adapted from our sister site across the pond, Fool U.K .
One thing I like about Warren Buffett is that when I read his words, I often think "Yeah, that's obvious -- why didn't I think of it?"
And in an interview with CNBC, in which Buffett has been voicing his thoughts on the eurozone, many will see more of the same.
Talking of the 17-member single currency group, the sage opined that "the system as presently designed has revealed a major flaw, and that flaw won't be corrected just by words." If it does survive, which Buffett thinks is in doubt, European countries will need to come together more closely or come up with some sort of rearrangement. But as it stands, the system is not working.
The ability to print money
The contrast with the U.S., which has also suffered its share of the banking crisis after billions in mortgage-back securities were suddenly recognized as worthless, could hardly be greater. The U.S. means to get back on track, and to the envy of a large swathe of the eurozone, it has exactly the right tools to do it -- total control over its own currency and its own monetary policy. Eat your heart out Greece, Italy, and Spain.
In fact, the big euro weakness that Buffett highlighted was that all 17 member states have voluntary given up their rights to issues bonds in their own currencies; to effectively print their own money. Buffett describes that ability as an enormous asset -- and an enormous liability if you don't have it.
But while Buffett says he has no idea how the eurozone crisis will end, he does see some investment bargains in European companies.
Bargains to be had
Telling us that Berkshire Hathaway will be making an investment in one large European company over the coming days, Buffett also reckons he'll buy more Tesco (NYS: TESO) shares should they come down in price, after having already taken a significant stake in the U.K.'s leading supermarket. And that's saying something, after Tesco shares have already greatly outstripped the FTSE this year.
So, what is he looking for in his investment search? Well, the same as for the past 60 years. He wants big companies with a sustainable competitive advantage, whose shares are fundamentally undervalued, and which are run well by honest people.
How does he sum it up? "Any time stocks go down I buy more of them. I like buying things on sale." Does all this, with the hindsight we now have, sound obvious to you? It's a shame it wasn't obvious to the leaders of the EU back in 1999.
By the way, if you want to find out just why Warren Buffett is so keen on Tesco, then you'll want to read this free Fool report.
More from Alan Oscroft:
- From Riches to Rags: The Northern Rock Story
- 3 Picks & Shovels From the Investment Sector
- The Familiar Name Profiting From Italy's Debt Crisis
The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco.
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