Thousands likely at Buffett meeting, but not all happy

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people are expected to pack an Omaha arena on Saturday for Warren Buffett’s…

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people are expected to pack an Omaha arena on Saturday for Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway annual reunion.

Most attendees of the company’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic want to be there just to have a chance to hear from Buffett, 91, and his 98-year-old investment partner, Charlie Munger, while they can. Again.

“How many more years do they have to do this?” It’s history,” said fund manager Justin Hardesty, who had been coming to meetings every year for nearly a decade before they went virtual in 2020. Hardesty said he was particularly interested to hear Buffett address some of the most pressing issues of the day, including the war in Ukraine and runaway inflation.

Large crowds filled a showroom on Friday to buy products from some of Berkshire’s nearly 90 companies, including See’s Candy and Fruit of the Loom, or buy insurance policies sold by Geico. The meeting will be held in the adjoining arena on Saturday, with shareholders pouring into overflowing rooms. Investors will be looking to learn more about Berkshire’s purchase of Alleghany Insurance for $11.6 billion and recent multi-billion dollar investments in HP and Occidental Petroleum stocks.

But among the thousands of people eager to hear Buffett and all of Berkshire’s vice presidents spend hours answering questions, some people will be unhappy with the conglomerate. And shareholders will even be asked to vote on a proposal that would strip Buffett of the chairmanship.

Dozens of members of Berkshire’s two largest BNSF railway unions plan to gather outside the arena on Saturday to share their concerns with shareholders over the way the railway is run. Dennis Pierce, national chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said the BNSF needs to do a better job of taking care of its workers, especially when it posted a record $6 billion profit last year. .

“It’s a celebration of Berkshire Hathaway and BNSF earnings, and our workers have done a lot of hard work to generate those earnings,” Pierce said.

Railroad unions are upset by a new attendance policy imposed by the BNSF earlier this year which they say makes it difficult for workers to take time off and pushes them to show up even when sick or tired. Pierce said the union was also frustrated with the lack of progress in contract talks after nearly three years of negotiations.

Pierce said unions hoped public pressure on the company that owns BNSF could spark a move when contract talks resume next week.

The shareholder proposal suggesting Buffett step down as chairman, and others suggesting Berkshire disclose more details about how it views climate change risk, are likely to fail. It’s simply because Buffett opposes it and he controls 32% of the vote.

CFRA Research analyst Cathy Seifert said that even if those resolutions don’t pass, “the issues raised by shareholders at the upcoming annual meeting are valid issues that Berkshire needs to address.”

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