Warren Buffett, vising India for the first time, said he hopes to invest in the South Asian nation after his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. committed more than $35 billion to takeovers in the last two years.
“We hope we spend some money here,” Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer, said at a media conference in Bangalore today.
Buffett, 80, is seeking deals in the U.S. and abroad as earnings climb at Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire. He agreed this month to pay about $9 billion for engine-additive maker Lubrizol Corp. and last year bought railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $26.5 billion. Berkshire’s cash holdings rose to $38.2 billion as of Dec. 31, prompting Buffett to tell investors two months later that his “elephant gun has been reloaded.”
Buffett is seeking to expand into India to tap growth in Asia’s second-fastest growing major economy. India’s $1.3 trillion economy may expand by as much as 9.25 percent in the year starting April 1, the fastest pace since 2008, the finance ministry forecast last month. Buffett said he doesn’t consider India to be an emerging market.
Berkshire, which started selling insurance to Indian consumers this month after forging an agreement with Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, will keep doing business in India in that form for the foreseeable future as the government caps foreign ownership in insurance companies to 26 percent, Buffett said.
India aims to raise the limit in the insurance industry to attract companies in the $41 billion market, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the nation’s Planning Commission said in December.
Buffett, whose largest non-U.S. acquisition was the 2006 purchase of Israel’s Iscar Metalworking Cos., is traveling in South Korea and India to visit Berkshire’s operations and look for opportunities. Iscar, purchased for $4 billion, makes cutting tools. A stop in Japan was canceled after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. He visited China in September.
Buffett will meet customers of berkshireinsurance.com, its venture with Bajaj Allianz, on March 25.
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