Published May 05, 2014
Warren Buffett said Monday he’s leery of social media stocks and has no interest in initial public offerings, while Bill Gates said he would support a spinoff from Microsoft (MSFT) if the software giant’s new CEO proposed one.
Buffett and Gates spoke from Omaha, Neb., in an interview with FOX Business Network’s Liz Claman.
Buffett, a legendary investor and chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK), said social media companies such as Twitter (TWTR), LinkedIn (LNKD) and Facebook (FB) don’t fit Berkshire’s long-time strategy of investing in stable, mature companies with proven track records.
“You’d have to tell me which one is going to be where in five years or ten years,” said Buffett. “It’s probably not an area Berkshire would be interested in.”
Buffett said he can’t remember ever buying an IPO in his five decades as an investor, and that’s not likely to change because most IPOs don’t represent “bargains” as defined by Berkshire’s investment strategy.
Gates, the founder and former CEO of Microsoft, said he’s been helping new CEO Satya Nadella transition into his new leadership role and that he would support Nadella if the new CEO proposed a spinoff of one of Microsoft’s units.
But Gates said he didn’t foresee either Bing, the company’s search engine division, or Xbox, its gaming division, as potential stand-alone companies because they are part of Microsoft’s long-term strategy.
Buffett again defended his decision to have Berkshire abstain in a vote on Coca-Cola’s (KO) controversial new executive compensation plan. Buffett, often a critic of what he has described as “excessive” executive pay, said abstaining was the best way to express Berkshire’s opposition to the plan.
Berkshire holds a 9% stake in Coke.
Buffett explained that his strategy has never been that of an activist investor, or one who actively seeks to alter a company’s business model like, say, a Carl Icahn.
“We’re not looking to change people,” he said. “We want to join with people we like and trust. We’re not doing the same thing that Carl Icahn is doing. He’s looking for different kinds of companies than we are.”
Charlie Munger, Berkshire’s vice chair and Buffett’s longtime business partner, was asked by Claman if he approved of redistributing wealth to decrease economic inequality.
The 90-year-old Munger, renowned for his candor, replied simply, “Not much.”
Buffett, asked the same question, said, “More than Charlie.”
Gates answered, “About the same as Warren.”