I checked out some of the live-streaming of the Berkshire Hathaway* annual meeting on Saturday.
*Berkshire Hathaway is an American multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. Warren Buffet (86 yrs old), business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, has been CEO since 1970. His 37.4% ownership of the company’s share makes him the second wealthiest person in the United States, with a total net worth of some $78.7 billion.
During the Q&A session, people ask all kinds of questions (as usual, at these meetings). What does Warren think of the Republican healthcare proposal? Buffet pointed out that in 1960, corporate taxes were 4% of GDP, and that it is 2% today. Healthcare costs, on the other hand, increased from 3% of the GDP in 1960, to 17% today. So it puts the American economy at a 6% disadvantage against its competitors, since healthcare is 10 or 11% of the GDP, in OECD countries. So it’s very important to bring healthcare costs under control, and to reduce waste and unnecessary treatments.
Inevitably, the question of Coca-Cola came up as well, as it does almost every year. (Berkshire Hathaway holds 400 million shares, and Buffet drinks a lot of it). Is it not bad for you, and for people in general? And are the Coca-Cola company with its products still a good investment?
Said Buffet: I would say I’ve been eating things I like to eat all my life. And Coca-Cola, this Coca-Cola 12 ounces, I drink about five a day. It has about 1.2 ounces of sugar in it. And if you look at what different people get their sugar and calories from, they get them from all kinds of things. I happen to believe I like to get my calories from this, I enjoy it … if you told me that I would live one year longer—and I don’t think I would—if I’d live one year longer if I ate only broccoli or asparagus or whatever, or if I eat what I like including Coca-Colas and steak and hash browns, I’d rather eat what I like and enjoy eating what I like than eat something I don’t and live another year. And I do think that choice should be mine. Maybe sugar is harmful and maybe you’d encourage the government to ban sugar … but I think Coca-Cola has been a very positive factor in the country and the world. And I really don’t want anyone telling me I can’t drink it. I think there’s something in longevity of feeling happy about your life.
To which I say: Mr Buffet, enjoy your Coke. You’re a lucky guy. I love Coke, but I can no longer drink the stuff. (Doctor’s orders).