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Warren Buffett appears to fault Trump, laments M&A dearth

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Billionaire investor says US President takes too much credit for US economic growth in annual letter

Mr Warren Buffett on Saturday appeared to fault US President Donald Trump for taking too much credit for the nation's economic growth while acknowledging that market conditions are making it tough for his Berkshire Hathaway to find more big companies to buy.

Mr Buffett lamented these states of affairs in his widely read annual letter to Berkshire shareholders.

Accompanying the letter was more bad news, that sinking stock prices and a big writedown for the company's Kraft Heinz investment fuelled a US$25.39 billion (S$34 billion) fourth-quarter net loss and caused Berkshire to post its lowest annual profit since 2001.

But many of Berkshire's more than 90 businesses, such as the Geico auto insurer and BNSF railroad, performed well, and quarterly operating profit rose 71 per cent.

Mr Buffett uses his shareholder letters to focus on Berkshire's operating businesses, tout the strength of the US economy, and criticise thinking and business practices that get in the way.

The 88-year-old said Berkshire's success has been in part a product of "the American tailwind" that has enabled the country to enjoy "almost unbelievable prosperity".

He said that since he began investing in 1942, prosperity has been overseen by seven Republican and seven Democratic presidents, through times of war and financial crisis, and gained in a bipartisan manner.


Mr Trump often takes credit for upbeat news on the economy and stock market, sometimes tying them to his economic policies.

Mr Buffett, who supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in her 2016 White House run, said no one person should claim credit when things go well.

"It is beyond arrogance for American businesses or individuals to boast that they have 'done it alone'," he wrote.

Mr Buffett also made a possible oblique criticism of Mr Trump's bragging about US economic performance, including relative to other countries such as China, where Berkshire invests in electric carmaker BYD.

The US, according to Mr Buffett, should "rejoice"when other countries have bright futures.

"Americans will be both more prosperous and safer if all nations thrive," he wrote. "At Berkshire, we hope to invest significant sums across borders."

Mr Thomas Russo, a partner at Gardner Russo & Gardner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and long-time Berkshire investor, said: "It sent an extraordinarily strong message about how open markets and free trade end up helping all participants do better." - REUTERS