Thousands of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders will flock to Omaha for the company’s annual meeting Saturday where CEO Warren Buffett will answer questions on the many businesses Berkshire owns, investing in general and any other topics shareholders throw at him.

What is the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting?

The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting will be held on Saturday, May 4 in Omaha, Nebraska and the question and answer session with Buffett will be broadcast on CNBC. All public companies hold annual meetings, but Berkshire’s is unique because Buffett takes questions directly from shareholders for about five hours.

Berkshire owns businesses that touch many different industries which makes the company’s results a unique window into how the economy is doing. Berkshire owns the BNSF Railway, Geico, Dairy Queen, vast insurance operations, energy companies and much more. It also has a massive stock portfolio that is closely watched by investors and includes companies such as Apple, Bank of America and Coca-Cola.

The 2024 meeting will be the first since Buffett’s longtime partner and Berkshire vice-chairman Charlie Munger died in November at the age of 99. Shareholders grew to love the two-man show at the meeting each year, with Munger typically offering succinct comments and biting humor compared to Buffett’s more diplomatic approach.

Shareholders will get to hear from Buffett’s named successor Greg Abel, who currently oversees Berkshire’s non-insurance operations, and Ajit Jain, who leads the insurance businesses.

Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting: Warren Buffett watch

1. First quarter results

Berkshire will report its first quarter results on Saturday before the meeting gets started, giving investors their first look at how the company is doing in early 2024. Buffett encourages shareholders to focus on the long-term, so he doesn’t dwell too much on the results in a single quarter, but he typically provides some brief comments on the results before taking questions.

2. Updated succession plans

Buffett has been reluctant to provide details on Berkshire’s succession plans in the past, but the death of Munger puts the issue at the forefront for shareholders. Greg Abel will likely take over as CEO once Buffett is no longer running Berkshire, with Ajit Jain continuing to run the insurance operations.

Shareholders may want to hear more from Abel and Jain as their time in charge grows closer. Buffett may also take the opportunity to speak on the merits of Berkshire’s structure in an attempt to fend off calls for a corporate breakup once he’s no longer around.

3. Plans for large cash holding

Berkshire held more than $160 billion in cash at the end of 2023, certainly higher than Buffett would like. Buffett often talks about making sure they have plenty of cash around to meet the needs of the business, but no doubt would love to find another large deal where he can put that cash to work.

The growing cash balance may increase calls from some shareholders for Berkshire to initiate a regular dividend, something Buffett has resisted as long as he feels he can create more than $1 of value for each dollar Berkshire retains. Thanks to the rise in interest rates, that cash balance earns a lot more than it did a few years ago.

4. Current investment landscape

Buffett tells shareholders not to ask about what they are buying or selling and says they won’t discuss how they arrive at their decisions. Still, Buffett often shares a few insights on some holdings as he has done in recent years on Apple and Occidental Petroleum.

It’s more likely that Buffett addresses how he views the current investment landscape in light of higher interest rates, stubbornly high inflation and the boom in artificial intelligence. Buffett has said that the future direction of interest rates is not predictable, but is extremely important to investors.

5. Update on utility company holdings

Shareholders will also look for an update on Berkshire’s electric utilities where Buffett has said the regulatory climate in a few states raises the possibility of “zero profitability or even bankruptcy.”

Berkshire’s PacifiCorp faces billions of dollars in liabilities stemming from its role in Oregon’s 2020 wildfires. “Berkshire can sustain financial surprises but we will not knowingly throw good money after bad,” Buffett said.

Other events

The Berkshire annual meeting brings tens of thousands of visitors to Omaha each year and there’s more than just the meeting to look forward to.

  • Shopping: Shareholders can shop with many of the Berkshire subsidiaries such as See’s Candy, Fruit of the Loom and even NetJets. There’s even a shareholder discount available at Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheims, an Omaha jewelry store Berkshire owns.
  • Dine like Buffett: One of Buffett’s favorite Omaha establishments is Gorat’s Steakhouse where he’s known to order the T-bone steak with a side of hashbrowns.
  • 5K: The weekend ends with the “Invest in Yourself” 5K on Sunday morning after the meeting. The race is sponsored by Brooks, a running shoe company Berkshire owns.