3 Things to Watch for at Berkshire's Annual Meeting

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Warren BuffettThis weekend, more than 40,000 of Warren Buffett's disciples will descend on his hometown for, among other things, a marathon question-and-answer session with the Oracle of Omaha himself. The event they'll be attending is Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) (BRK.B) annual shareholder meeting, better known as "Woodstock for Capitalists."

Any time the greatest investor alive is talking, we should all be listening. Buffett has become the third-richest human on Earth -- amassing a fortune of $44 billion -- simply by investing wisely and growing his businesses. It's no wonder that investors from all over the world will be traveling to Omaha to soak up all the wisdom they can get from him.

Before the oracle speaks, let's go over three things that Buffett is sure to touch on at Berkshire 2012.

1. His prostate cancer: As much as he'd probably like to avoid it, one of the main topics for the 2012 meeting will likely be Buffett's recent disclosure that he has stage one prostate cancer. Buffett has already done his best to quell any fears that the diagnosis is a serious issue for him or Berkshire, pointing out that the cancer is highly treatable and "is not remotely life-threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way." So while some of the meeting will have to be focused on this issue, it's doubtful we'll hear much more that's substantive from Buffett on it; he's said pretty much all he can say for now.



2. Berkshire's next CEO:
Because of the recent cancer disclosure, expect this year's meeting to focus more on his successor. In his annual letter to shareholders in February, Buffett said that Berkshire's board has identified the person who will take over for him as chief executive, but he wouldn't name the individual -- and the annointed one isn't even aware of it. Currently, most agree that the leading candidate is Indian-born Ajit Jain, the 60-year-old head of Berkshire's insurance business. Buffett has said of Jain: "He's smarter than I am."

If it's not Jain, GEICO CEO Tony Nicely or Burlington Northern CEO Matthew Rose are also plausible picks.

3. Share underperformance and buybacks: Though Berkshire has performed well as a company, its shares have underperformed the S&P 500 year to date by about 5 percentage points, and over the past full year by around 3 percentage points. These are certainly not the kind of returns Berkshire shareholders are used to.

Some question whether uncertainty over the succession plan could be holding the stock back, something that you can be sure Buffett will be asked about this weekend. On the bright side, one good thing about the stock's underperformance is that Berkshire shares have become relatively cheap -- so cheap that the company instituted its first-ever share repurchase program last September. Might a dividend be next? Almost certainly not while Buffett is still kicking; he has shot down the idea repeatedly. Investors clamoring for a dividend will have to wait at least until Berkshire's next CEO takes over.

While these three subjects will be at the forefront of Berkshire 2012, I don't expect any of them to take over the meeting the way the resignation of David Sokol -- one-time leading candidate to replace Buffett -- did last year. And that's good news for Berkshire shareholders and non-shareholders alike: There should be room for plenty of meaningful questions to pick the brain of a brilliant investor.

Not only will the meeting be highly informative, but it will also be highly entertaining. Buffett and partner Charlie Munger keep the discussion lively with their famous back-and-forth dialogue and one-liners. While you won't find the meeting on CNBC -- cameras are strictly prohibited -- a full team of Foolish analysts (including yours truly) will be in Omaha to keep you abreast of everything that happens at Berkshire 2012. We'll be live-blogging the entire experience, sending out Buffett's and Munger's can't-miss investing tips, one-liners, and general words of wisdom. Make sure to enter your email in the box below to receive a reminder and link to our live chat, starting Saturday at 9 a.m. EDT.





Motley Fool contributor Brendan Byrnes owns no shares of any company mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway.



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51 Comments

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cpo1514

Buffet.... Pay your taxes yet????/ Send the Occupant of the White House a few million.... he needs the $$$$$

May 05 2012 at 10:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kent05r

With the new CEO for Google being the X-CEO of DARPA, I am quite sure he has a tap on everything, everyone and what every electronic transfer in the world is. Possible the capabilities to Hold,Change and Divert any an all electronic transactions to emailing to Private letters. No one is private with this new technological paid for by US tax dollars to Spy on you and your company to Secure the country form corporatism growth.
All in the name of Homeland Security. Vote Mitt in 2012. Save a country Yours.

May 05 2012 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
granaryst

Have you ever wondered why many of the richest people in the world are Obama supporters? Why they are getting richer faster than ever and you are getting poorer? Somebody is getting scammed!

May 05 2012 at 8:14 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dorismcdonald7

I herad this speach yesterday, about the fals retirement. All I got from it you or the other person wanted me to but a book, or sign up for news letters. The speach told me nothing. Doris Mcdonald P.S. this is for mothley fool report. It sounds to me every body lie's. Every body still just wants your last penny. Do Not care who it is Mr Buffet ro Mr motley. Remember boys we are trying to hang on our last dollor.

May 05 2012 at 7:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kaden

He knows what companys are going to be sold or expanded, He has helped to put many small Biz out of biz, he takes over a company and they drop the price of their product some times below our cost, so the small biz go under, I am fighting one right now, I have to sell my product for 55cents sq ft, they sell for 32 cents , They do it untill the small biz go under,Mr Buffet stop hurting us.

May 05 2012 at 7:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kaden

To have Buffet invest your money tyou have to pay him up front huage amounts of money just for him handling your acct, the reason he always makes money I am told he buys companys , so he knows they are going to make money when two companys unite, he is no great brain power just a smaty con man is my opinion

May 05 2012 at 7:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carlito Mcknight

Mr Buffett I hope that Mr Nicely succeed you. Ive had the pleasure of orking with him for eleven years and seeing that he is a very dedicated leader that will lead Berkshire with success in the future.

May 05 2012 at 6:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kaden

Your government is not going to help us, we must help ourself First dont elect by Party affiliation, each town city knows who is the mosy honest man or woman for the job, no matter what party they are from,lets do it,I find when they have been in office for over 20 years they are not going to change, and most can be bought, lets send them home,I came from Europe I saw what cradle to grave give away can do to a country, they just make you all so poor you dont care anymore,I moved to USA for a better life up untill now its been great, but I see it going the way Europe went, so please take back your country, we need one big party, the party of the people

May 05 2012 at 6:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kaden

Mr Buffet stop the lies tell the Amereican people who you realy are, Your one of the largest investors in China, they love what your doing for them, I was just in Shanghi and they worship you, Also please pay the tax's you now owe our government, that would be a start.and if you want to realy help USA invest here instead of China

May 05 2012 at 6:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Dakotah Cubillo

Buffett, you are awesome that you have aquired a fortune. i'm happy for you and never let anybody get you down. There will always be jealous haters.

May 05 2012 at 6:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply