By Betty Liu and Andrew Frye
Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) — Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Eitan Wertheimer, who has called himself Chairman Warren Buffett’s “travel agent” for finding opportunities outside the U.S., said he wants to bring the billionaire investor to Japan.
“I hope in a year from now to bring Warren over,” Wertheimer said today in a Bloomberg Television interview. “I was taking with him about it.” Buffett, who visited Europe last year and China in 2007 to drum up business for his company, may visit Tungaloy Corp., the Japanese firm acquired by Berkshire, Wertheimer said.
Buffett has been looking outside the U.S. for investment opportunities as the federal deficit swells. In 2006, Berkshire paid $4 billion for an 80 percent stake in Israel’s Iscar Metalworking Cos., the company Wertheimer’s father started in 1952. Wertheimer has said his most important role has become accompanying Buffett on trips and facilitating Omaha, Nebraska- based Berkshire’s deals and expansion abroad.
“When Warren Buffett gets out of bed in the morning there’s one thing on his mind, ‘What’s out there that will be an attractive addition to our universe of subsidiaries,’” said Frank Betz, a partner at Warren, New Jersey-based Carret Zane Capital Management, which owns Berkshire shares. “The Iscar people are well-connected and well-prepared tour guides.”
Iscar, a toolmaker that has manufacturing in countries including Israel, Japan, the U.S. and China, agreed last year to buy Tungaloy. Wertheimer said he couldn’t comment on whether Buffett, who is also Berkshire’s chief executive officer, would arrange meetings in Japan to explore investment opportunities. Carrie Kizer, an assistant to Buffett, said in an e-mail she wasn’t aware of any planned trip to Japan.
‘A Wonderful Tour’
Buffett, who built Berkshire into a $150 billion company by buying businesses ranging from insurance to energy and candymaking, had $24.5 billion of cash at the firm at the end of the second quarter. He’s been investing in companies hurt by the global recession since the credit freeze last year.
“We did have a wonderful tour in Europe trying to see the entrepreneurs,” Wertheimer said. “Every time we go, we meet a lot of interesting people. What comes out is a second story.”
Buffett agreed in 2008 to buy a minority stake in BYD Co., the Chinese maker of electric cars, in a deal that has generated a paper profit of more than $1 billion for Berkshire. The manufacturer of the world’s first mass-produced plug-in hybrid has surged sixfold in the past 12 months of Hong Kong trading.
Iscar, based in Tefen, northern Israel, makes cutting gear for industries ranging from aerospace to auto manufacturing, for clients including Toyota Motor Corp. The company competes with market leader Sandvik AB.
Berkshire has been buying securities issued by governments outside the U.S. The company held about $11.1 billion in foreign government bonds in its insurance units as of June 30, compared with $9.6 billion three months earlier, Berkshire said in a regulatory filing on Aug. 7.
The value of holdings in U.S. Treasuries and so-called government sponsored enterprises slipped 5.3 percent in the three months ended June 30 to about $2.5 billion.
Buffett said in a New York Times commentary last month that the massive amounts of “monetary medicine” that have been pumped into the financial system pose threats to the U.S. economy and its currency.
“Unchecked greenback emissions will certainly cause the purchasing power of currency to melt,” Buffett said. “The dollar’s destiny lies with Congress.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Betty Liu in New York at email@example.com; Andrew Frye in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: September 10, 2009 12:08 EDT