Legendary investor Warren Buffett considers India to be among the top four-five countries in the world with the kind of businesses his company, Berkshire Hathway, likes to do and is hopeful of the country opening its sectors for more foreign investment.
Buffett, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier in the day and also the insurance regulaotry chief, J Harinarayan, told a gathering of policy holders of his company in India (it has an agency business with Bajaj Allianz ) that as India saw the obvious results of more open investment, it would open up further.
“I met a number of people in the government. My impression is that they will continue to open up as they have been in recent years, as the benefits of more open investment and broader investments become obvious. I don’t know the exact speed at which this will happen, but I will expect there will be more (opening up),” he said.
The remarks assume importance, since a bill to raise the foreign investment cap from the current 26 per cent to 49 per cent in private insurance has been tabled and is with a Standing Committee of Parliament. Sensing the delay in these decisions, the Government had yesterday kept foreign investment out of the pension reforms bill tabled in the Lok Sabha.
At the meeting with policyholders, Buffett said his company is looking to make investments anywhere in the world where it found really good businesses run by people “we admire and trust and we understand the business and certainly India is in the top four or five countries in the world that has the sort of businesses we are looking for”.
He said India was going to have far faster growth rate than the United States. As to a query about contradictions like high growth rate and governance deficit, Buffett quipped as to whether the question was about the US or India. He said there would always be tensions and problems once an economy grows, but on balance, human conditions improve.
With a yearly growth rate of eight to nine per cent and population growth of 1 to 1.5 per cent, one could easily see improvement in per capita income in India.
On addressing inflation, as high as 8.31 per cent in February, the legendary investor said the best way was to improve your earnings. “The best protection against inflation is to improve your own earning power, your own talents. Very few people maximise their talents, and if you increase your talents, if you become useful in your productivity, in your profession, that is the best protection.”