Billionaire Buffett eyes more investments in Australia

Billionaire Buffett eyes more investments in Australia
PHOTO: Reuters

SYDNEY - US investment guru Warren Buffett plans to build stakes in other large Australian companies after agreeing to pay Aus$500 million (S$519 million) for a slice of Insurance Australia Group, he was reported as saying Wednesday.

The 84-year-old head of US-based Berkshire Hathaway said he liked what he saw in Australia, hinting that banks could be in his sights.

"If you come back in two or three years, you will find we have got four or five Australian equities," he told Fairfax Media.

"We have some big positions in US banks. I will certainly be looking at the banks (in Australia)... I would say there is a good chance that five years from now, we will have bought one or more positions in Australian banks." Berkshire Hathaway, which has interests in everything from manufacturers to electric utilities and railroads, owns almost 10 percent of Wells Fargo in the United States and made large returns on an investment in Bank of America during the global financial crisis.

Under a 10-year strategic relationship, Berkshire will receive 20 percent of Sydney-based IAG's gross written premium and pay 20 percent of its claims. Berkshire will also take a 3.7 percent stake in the group as the Australian firm pushes into Asia.

Media reports said the capital Berkshire will receive from the deal will be reinvested in other Australian companies.

"We will be looking more at the Australian market," Buffett, famous for his disciplined and long-term approach to investing, said in a separate interview with The Australian newspaper.

"So we will be combing over optimal investments, really, from this point forward. We will have significant funds in Australian dollars and we'll want to keep them there." Buffett said he was attracted to Australia by its developed markets and respect for capital and rule of law.

"I know less, obviously, about Australia than the United States, but everything I know about it gives me reason to have the same kind of forecast for it as I have for the United States," he said.

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