- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2008

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Warren Buffett, whose business and investment acumen has made him one of the world’s wealthiest men, embarked on a European “deferred shopping tour” yesterday, looking for possible acquisitions for his Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Starting in Frankfurt, continental Europe’s financial hub, the 77-year-old chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire said he wanted to put his company “on the radar screens” of German family-owned businesses should they ever consider selling.

“You want to fish in a pond where there’s fish. Europe is a much better pond,” Mr. Buffett said on his decision to visit Europe instead of emerging-market countries.

He said the wish list was for long-term investments in durable, competitive companies that have the potential for a good return on capital and a trusted management team in place.

“We’re looking for companies that have at least $50 [million] to $75 million in pretax profit. The bigger the better,” Mr. Buffett said without elaborating. “I know you want names, but you won’t get any.”

Mr. Buffett, whose family ran a grocery store for 100 years until 1969 in Omaha, Neb., said that any company can eventually be faced with having to, or wanting to sell.

“It would be a good choice for them to contact us if they wanted to,” he said, noting that Berkshire Hathaway could probably preserve the quality of those companies.

He said family companies often had a much longer planning time frame, don’t have to answer to shareholders or Wall Street, and could be more in line with Berkshire’s strategy. Mr. Buffett said he hopes the phone will start ringing.

He said again that his company has no plans to buy the Royal Bank of Scotland’s insurance operations.

Mr. Buffett said his trip to seek out opportunities among Europe’s biggest family-owned companies will include stops in Switzerland, Spain and Italy.

Omaha-based Berkshire has about $35 billion in cash and is looking to invest. Mr. Buffet said that he won’t be deterred by the weak dollar, which would make European companies more expensive. “I’m not going to pass up something because currency is too high or too low. The good opportunities are few and far between.”

This week’s trip includes meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, today and Madrid tomorrow, wrapping up with a visit to Milan, Italy, on Thursday.