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Warren Buffett sees ‘loads of opportunities’ in India for Berkshire

At Berkshire Hathaway's annual earnings meeting, billionaire investor warns AI may be better for scammers than society

Warren Buffett sees ‘loads of opportunities’ in India for Berkshire
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman Warren Buffett said he sees “loads of opportunities” in India that could be pursued by “a more energetic management”

Speaking at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual earnings meeting in Omaha, Buffett said “there may be an unexplored or unattended” opportunities in the country, but “we’ll see how the next management plays the game out at Berkshire”.

“And obviously India, you know, I’m sure there are loads of opportunities in a place like India. And the question is, do we have any advantage in either insights into those businesses or contacts, it will make possible some transaction that parties in India would particularly want us to participate,” Buffett said.

“I would say that that’s something that a more energetic management at Berkshire could pursue, because we do have the reputation,” Buffett said, while also pointing out that “Berkshire is known, not like it’s known in the US, but it’s known around the world. And, you know, our Japanese experience has been fascinating in that respect.”

In India, Berkshire Hathaway had bought a 2.6% stake in One97 Communications Ltd, fintech Paytm’s parent firm, for about ₹2,200 crore ($260 million today) in 2018.

Buffett’s investment firm had sold shares valued at about ₹220 crore in the fintech firm’s initial public offering (IPO) in 2021, before exiting the firm completely in November last year for ₹1,370 crore ($164 million).

Berkshire Hathaway had locked in a more than 20% loss from the overall investment, Reuters had reported following the firm’s exit, citing Breakingviews calculations.

Buffett likens AI to nuclear bomb

Meanwhile, during the earnings call, Buffett likened artificial intelligence to the nuclear bomb, adding that “it’s a genie that scares the hell out of me.”

“Last year I said that we let a genie out of the bottle when we developed nuclear weapons, and that genie has been doing some terrible things lately. And the power of that genie is what, you know, scares the hell out of me. And then I don’t know any way to get the genie back in the bottle. And AI is somewhat similar,” Buffett said.

In the call, Buffett shared an “experience” with AI that made him “a little nervous”.

“I’ll just explain it that very, very recently, fairly recently, I saw an image in front of my eyes on the screen, and it was me and it was my voice. And wearing the kind of clothes I wear, and my wife or my daughter wouldn’t have been able to detect any difference. And it was delivering a message that no way came from me,” he said.

The ace investor and philanthropist said scamming, driven by AI, “would be the growth industry of all time.”

“When you think of the potential for scamming people, if you can reproduce images that I can’t even tell that say “I need money,” you know,” he said.

“It’s your daughter; I’ve just had a car crash. I need $50,000 wired. I mean, scamming has always been part of the American scene. If I was interested in investing in scamming, it’s going to be the growth industry of all time,” Buffett said.

The billionaire investors said AI has potential for good things, too, “but I don’t know.”

“I don’t have any advice on how the world handles it because I don’t think we know how to handle what we did with the nuclear genie. But I do think, as someone who doesn’t understand a damn thing about it, that it has enormous potential for good, an enormous potential for harm. And I just don’t know how that plays out,” he added.

Berkshire Hathaway dumps Apple shares

In its January-to-March quarter earnings report, Berkshire Hathaway reported a record cash pile of $189 billion as it dumped roughly 115 million shares, or a 13% stake, in iPhone maker Apple Inc. for about $20 billion.

At the end of the quarter, Apple remained Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest holding at 40% of the company’s overall stock portfolio of about $336 billion at $135.4 billion.

To be sure, shares of Apple, American Express, Bank of America, Coca-Cola and Chevron make up about three-fourths of the company’s portfolio value.

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