Buffett Sees Post-Olympus Japan Opportunities

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Buffett Sees Post-Olympus Japan Opportunities

Post  hurricanemaxi on Mon Nov 21, 2011 2:42 pm

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said he’s unfazed by the recent scandal at Japanese camera maker Olympus Corp. and is looking for investment opportunities in the nation’s companies.

“We’re looking for companies that have some kind of sustainable competitive advantage,” Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), said today at a news conference in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. “The fact that Olympus happens here or Enron happens in the U.S. doesn’t affect our attitudes at all.”

Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is visiting Japan for the first time to tour a plant of tool maker Tungaloy Corp., after canceling his trip in March when the country was struck by a record earthquake. Olympus said this month that it concealed losses by paying inflated advisory fees, raising concern among investors about corporate governance in Asia’s second-largest economy.

“There are lots of opportunities in Japan,” Buffett, 81, said in Iwaki city, adding that the earthquake hasn’t changed his view on investing in the country. He said he is interested in “businesses that will be around for many, many decades.”

Iwaki is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant that leaked radiation after it was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Buffett, who became the world’s third-richest person through long-term value investing, said earlier this year that the disaster created a “buying opportunity.”
‘Means a Lot’

“The fact that a renowned investor like Mr. Buffett is actually coming all the way to Japan and to the very place that became the center of the disaster means a lot and may shine a light,” said Shuhei Abe, president of Tokyo-based Sparx Group Co., Asia’s second-biggest hedge fund. “There are expectations that Mr. Buffett may invest more in Japan.”

Iscar Metalworking Cos., an Israeli company that was Berkshire’s largest acquisition of a non-U.S. firm, in 2008 bought a 71.5 percent stake in Tungaloy, which makes tools for cars and planes.

Japan’s stock benchmark Nikkei 225 (NKY) Stock Average fell 0.3 percent today, extending losses to 18 percent this year. The gauge is set for the worst annual decline since 2008, as Europe’s escalating debt crisis and a global economic slowdown roil markets worldwide. Buffett, who is also Berkshire’s chief executive officer, has made bullish bets on the index through derivative contracts.
Costliest Natural Disaster

The earthquake and tsunami left more than 19,000 people dead or missing and led to an overall economic loss of $210 billion, making it the costliest natural catastrophe on record, Munich Re has said. Losses assumed by insurers, which Munich Re estimates at $30 billion, won’t reach the $62.2 billion caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it said.
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