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First PHOTOS: Warren Buffett in India

Last updated on: March 23, 2011 12:38 IST

First PHOTOS: Warren Buffett in India

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Indian hospitality received a strong endorsement from the world's third richest man, Warren Buffett, who said he was treated much better in India than back in the United States.

"I am just overwhelmed by the welcome I have received from the moment we got here. They treat me much better in India than they do in the United States," said the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc at a brief meeting with Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa early Wednesday morning.

"I want to transport all this... I believe in free trade," he said in a lighter vein.

"We had a great dinner last night... I met some very interesting people, had a great conversation. I couldn't feel more welcome and more delighted to be here," said Buffet, who is staying at Taj West End during his visit to the country.

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Image: Warren Buffett, wearing a traditional 'tika' pauses during a news conference in Bengaluru.
Photographs: Reuters
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First PHOTOS: Warren Buffett in India

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"Better late than never," is what Warren Edward Buffett, also known by investors worldwide as the Sage of Omaha, has to say about making his first visit to India at the age of 81.

"This is my first trip to India and the first foot I placed on Indian soil was in Bengaluru... and it won't be the last," said Buffett.

"When I come back, I will be 100 in 2030," he joked, but quickly added that he planned to come back much before that and was hopeful of seeing business expand here by then.

"I do hope that I spend some money here," he told journalists, kicking off his visit with a lively media discussion late Tuesday evening.

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Image: Buffett (R) sits in a golf cart with Eitan Wertheimer, chairman of ISCAR Metalworking.
Photographs: Reuters
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First PHOTOS: Warren Buffett in India

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Arriving directly for the press conference hosted by TaeguTec India after landing in a private jet from South Korea, he held forth on a host of issues - from regulation in Indian insurance to how one should approach investments in equity markets.

Just days before his visit, Berkshire Hathaway, his company, signed up as a corporate agent for Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, marking its entry into the Indian insurance sector.

"We want to be where the action is and the action is here," Buffett said.

"We are looking at large investment destinations and India fits into our scheme of things. I do not consider India part of the emerging countries... it is a big market.

I do not have any particular sector focus or have set aside a corpus to invest in India. I go for investments in companies which have sound management and in those companies which I understand pretty well," he said.

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Image: Buffett waves upon his arrival at Daegu's airport, southeast of Seoul.
Photographs: Truth Leem/Reuters
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First PHOTOS: Warren Buffett in India

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Buffett, who viewed a short presentation on investment opportunities in Karnataka and the Global Investors meet held in 2010, on Wednesday said he was impressed by the speed of implementation of the MoUs signed during the Investors Meet.

"It is very impressive," he said, lauding the efforts of the Karnataka government in facilitating the establishment of a Nestle food processing plant in a short timeframe of barely 10 months.

Yeddyurappa extended an invitation to Buffett to be the chief guest at the Global Investors Meet in 2012 during the nearly half-hour-long meeting.

The chief minister, attired in a formal suit, briefed Buffett about the investment opportunities in Karnataka, the progressive policies of the state government, the close to 400 MoUs signed at the Global Investors Meet and the speedy implementation of several of the projects.

"I invite you to invest in Karnataka in different sectors and assure you all the support and coordination from our government," Yeddyurappa told the legendary investor.

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Image: US President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to Buffett.
Photographs: Larry Downing/Reuters
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To a question as to what Karnataka needs to be doing to woo more investors, Buffett said, "You are doing the right thing."

Asked what his own assessment was on the impact of the Japanese crisis on the re-insurance sector, he said, "It is very early to assess that. "

"Much of the loss is uninsured... It is a wild guess at this point, but I would say that it will be probably be between half-a-billion and a billion dollars. To put that in perspective, Katrina (hurricane) cost us $3 billion and we are much larger."

"It is a significant amount of money, but it is not what I call a super catastrophe from the financial standpoint," he said, but added that it was a great tragedy from the human loss point of view.

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Image: Buffett tests a translation device during a news conference at a BYD plant in Changsha, Hunan.
Photographs: Reuters
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First PHOTOS: Warren Buffett in India

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Buffett also said he does not envisage his company doing insurance underwriting in the near future in India and will continue to be a corporate agent until regulatory issues are allowed.

On the issue of Ajit Jain, a senior executive of Indian origin in Berkshire who is tipped to succeed him at Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett was non-committal.

"Ajit Jain is a great person and he has made more money for Berkshire than I have... We have become close friends and he is an extraordinary person," is all he would say.

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Image: Buffett gives a cup of DQ ice cream to a Chinese girl during his visit to a new Dairy Queen store in Beijing.
Photographs: Jason Lee/Reuters
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Buffett's primary mission to India over the next three days will be to meet a host of wealthy Indians and impress upon them to donate a part of their wealth to philanthropy under 'The Giving Pledge' campaign. Buffett will be meeting a galaxy of top Indian businessmen here tomorrow morning, under the aegis of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

He then flies to New Delhi on Thursday to meet other honchos, as well as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, among others.

"Philanthropy is much tougher than running a business. We do not get an instant feedback on how we are functioning and whether we are on the right track... unlike in a business... It is much harder..." he said, urging it is high time one went out and helped those in need.

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Image: Buffett (L) talks with James D. Robinson III at the Sun Valley Inn, Idaho, US.
Photographs: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
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Buffett had pledged more than 90 per cent of his $50 billion personal wealth to the Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation, for a host of causes across the globe.

"I have more than what I need and there are lot of people around the world who will benefit from that money," he said.

And, then, it was a question he had to face. Being in Bengaluru and not talk on the outsourcing debate?

"I am (a) strong believer in trade and the world will be a better place if there is more trade. In the long term, the United States will surely stand to benefit if India prospers... and if China prospers," he said.


Image: Buffett (C) takes out his wallet to pose for a photo during his visit a new Dairy Queen store in Beijing.
Photographs: Jason Lee/Reuters
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