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Warren Buffett testing Indian market
Anusha S & Janaki Krishnan in Mumbai | June 27, 2003 11:44 IST
Warren Buffett? And in India? At least that's the buzz in the markets.
The world's wealthiest investor (valued at $30 billion) has taken a fancy to the Indian stock markets and is believed to be quietly testing the waters, prior to taking a full-fledged plunge.
Operating on Buffett's behalf in India is his right hand man, Ajit Jain, president of Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group, Buffett's flagship.
Market sources said Jain had been meeting domestic oil and gas companies in order to understand their market.
Between May 2 and June 26 the BPCL stock price rose by around 24 per cent, that of Bongaigaon Refineries by 65 per cent, of Kochi Refinery by 27 per cent, of Chennai Petroleum by 42 per cent, of ONGC by 39 per cent, of IOC by 68 per cent, of HPCL by 26 per cent and of MRPL by a whopping 150.50 per cent.
Buffett has already expressed an interest in the Asian markets and his foray into India is being seen as a natural extension of this interest.
Industry circles said it would be a matter of time before Buffett made an official announcement of his investments in India.
"He does not operate incognito. He also does not play for small stakes but will invest anything upwards of 5 per cent in the companies he is interested in," said the head of a foreign fund house.
Buffett's investments are characterised by his belief in value investing, going by the fundamentals of the company. "Oil stocks offer the best value and potential now," industry experts pointed out.
Incidentally Jain, Buffett's representative, who heads the re-insurance business in the group, is a strong contender to succeed Buffett as the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which has a $80 billion investment portfolio.
Jain has been on Buffett's staff since 1986 and Buffett apparently talks to this insurance guru every day. Jain figures among the list of four managers one of whom is likely to take over when Buffett steps down.
Buffett has publicly praised Jain and in his latest letter to shareholders, on February 21, 2003, said: "If we ever put a photograph in a Berkshire annual report, it will be of Ajit (Jain). In colour. If you see Ajit at our annual meeting, bow deeply."Jain, who has an MBA from Harvard, was born and raised in India. Jain also has the distinction of having single-handedly generated more revenue and earning than any other employee in the group.