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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 May, 2003, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Warren Buffett's profits soar
Warren Buffet
Warren Buffett ignored the dot.com boom

Investment guru Warren Buffett has confirmed his legendary ability to back the right businesses by doubling his company's profits.

His Berkshire Hathaway group made an operating profit of $1.7bn (1.1bn) in the first three months of the year - more than twice the figure at the same time last year.

"It's the best earnings we've every had," he told more than 15,000 shareholders packed into an auditorium in Omaha this weekend for Berkshire's annual meeting.

But the Sage of Omaha, as he is known, continued to be downbeat about the stock market.

" I have not thought stocks were cheap for quite some years.

"If there's nothing smart to do, cash is the default option."

He said Berkshire now had about $16bn in cash on its balance sheets. At the end of last year Berkshire was holding about $10bn in cash.

Picking investments

Mr Buffett criticised companies that overpaid their chief executives.

He said share options offered by many companies were unfair because they could compensate poor executives during good years and could hurt good leaders during bad years.

Berkshire owns businesses and shares in a whole range of industries from furniture and restaurants to insurance and newspapers.

On Friday Berkshire paid $1.5bn for McLane Co., Wal-Mart's grocery delivery unit.

Mr Buffett explained his reasoning saying: "It's a narrow margin business but McLane knows how to do it."

On his decision to build up a stake in China's Petrochina he said: "We think we understand the oil business in China reasonably well.

"We don't make any great judgements about China."

Warren Buffett famously turned his back on dot.com companies when they were booming and at the time he was criticised for his stance.

But his judgement turned out to be correct when most other investors lost money in the subsequent crash.

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