Buffett downplays chance of Berkshire dividend

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffett downplayed on Saturday the idea of a first-ever dividend for shareholders, as he opened his conglomerate's annual meeting for a crowd of tens of thousands of people.

Berkshire, which some estimate will have a cash pile of $50 billion by the end of this year, does not offer shareholders a yield, a fact most people have accepted for years. But of late, some have said shareholders might like the company to return cash instead.

"I'm not sure how many would," Buffett said, responding to a question from a scrum of reporters and shareholders following him through the exhibit floor of the Qwest Center in Omaha. Many of Berkshire's portfolio companies have booths on the floor, demonstrating and selling their products.

Buffett was in a light-hearted mood as his walked the exhibits, despite the scandal over investments by former Berkshire executive David Sokol that is hanging over the company.

As is his custom, he made a beeline for the Dairy Queen booth to get an orange cream bar, which he continued to munch on as he admired a model train set at the Burlington Northern booth.

(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz; Editing by Eric Beech)