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Top Berkshire execs take questions at meeting

Associated Press Modified: May 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm •  Published: May 5, 2012
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger spent more than five hours Saturday answering questions from shareholders, reporters and stock analysts.

Here is a sample of their comments on a variety of topics:

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BUFFETT'S SUCCESSOR:

Buffett has said one of his most important jobs as the head of Berkshire is to manage risk and make sure the company is not exposed to catastrophic problems. He said his eventual successor will also have that job.

Buffett said Berkshire's board won't ever choose a CEO who doesn't have the skills needed to evaluate the complicated insurance and derivative transactions Berkshire sometimes enters into.

"We're not going to have an arts major in charge of Berkshire," Buffett said.

Buffett said his eventual successor at Berkshire will maintain the company's culture and keep key managers of its subsidiaries happy.

"You do not need to worry about my successor," he said.

Many of the managers of Berkshire companies are independently wealthy themselves. They work only because they enjoy it, and Buffett largely lets them operate their companies independently.

"The successor we have in mind will not be one who will turn off the managers," Buffett said.

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RENEWABLE ENERGY:

Buffett said the subsidies Berkshire Hathaway's utility companies get for their wind and solar power projects are important because the projects might not get built without them.

"I don't think any of our projects would make sense without subsidies," Buffett said.

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LARGE ACQUISITIONS:

Buffett said Berkshire can consider acquisitions up to about $20 billion. Larger deals are tougher to complete, he said, because Berkshire doesn't want to issue new stock and doesn't want its cash to drop below $20 billion.

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