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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2006, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Buffett sets sights on major deal
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett
When billionaire Warren Buffett speaks, people listen
US investment giant Berkshire Hathaway is considering ploughing billions of dollars into a major acquisition, the firm's founder and boss has confirmed.

Warren Buffett told shareholders he was keen to shrink the group's cash pile from $40bn (21bn) to about $10bn.

Speaking at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting in Omaha, the veteran US investor said he might be prepared to spend up to $15bn on a single deal.

Mr Buffett's words are closely scrutinised by investors and pundits.

The 75-year-old, known to many as the Sage of Omaha, has been at the helm of insurance and investment giant Berkshire Hathaway since 1965.

He is estimated to be the world's second richest man, after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, with a personal fortune worth some $40bn.

Weaker dollar

If I die tonight, the person who takes over tomorrow won't get as many phone calls perhaps
Warren Buffett

Berkshire Hathaway's annual two-day meeting in Omaha is a major event in corporate America, not least because it is one of the few occasions when Mr Buffett gives some public insight into his views on business.

Under Mr Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway's stock has consistently outperformed key shares indexes.

Wall Street has been buzzing recently with speculation that Berkshire Hathaway is close to announcing a major acquisition.

However, Mr Buffett did not specify which companies in particular he might be prepared to make a bid for.

Separately, Mr Buffett told shareholders at the company's meeting that he expected the US dollar to continue to weaken.

His comments came as Berkshire Hathaway announced a 70% jump in profits during the first three months of the year to $2.31bn, boosted by investment gains on the weaker dollar.

Successor awaits

Warren Buffett DVDs on at stall at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting
Mr Buffett is a legend among Berkshire Hathaway investors
On Friday, Berkshire Hathaway said it had secured a $5bn deal to buy an 80% share in Israeli tool manufacturer Iscar Metalworking.

The move sent shares in Tel Aviv up by almost 2% to record highs on Sunday - Israeli investors hope Mr Buffett will continue to eye further acquisitions in Israel.

Earlier this year, Berkshire Hathaway announced that Mr Buffett was preparing to step aside as chairman and chief executive, and that a successor had been chosen.

However, since then both Mr Buffett and the company have remained tight-lipped about who that successor might be.

Acknowledging his unique reputation among investors, Mr Buffett told shareholders on Saturday: "If I die tonight, the person who takes over tomorrow won't get as many phone calls perhaps."

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