Buffett disputes Trump: ‘Talented and ambitious' migrants make US great

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Buffett uses his annual shareholders letter to laud immigrants and their contribution to growth of US economy

Warren Buffett (right) with Microsoft's Bill Gates speaks at an event earlier this year (AFP/file photo)
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Tuesday 28 February 2017 11:18 UTC
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Billionaire investor Warren Buffett used his annual letter on Saturday to laud immigrants and their contribution to the growth of the US economy amid President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant stance.

"Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers," he wrote in the 28 page letter to shareholders of his massive Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.

The annual missive from the 86-year-old investor - the world's third-wealthiest person, according to Forbes magazine - is pored over for clues to the thinking of the "Oracle of Omaha," who lives and works in Nebraska city.

Buffett steered clear of any direct mention of Trump, who took office on 20 January. He had supported Hillary Clinton in her bid to win the White House.

The letter came as the country grapples with a sharp controversy over Trump's anti-immigrant policies and his crackdown on the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the country.

Trump entered office last month with the lowest approval ratings for an incoming president in at least four decades, Bloomberg News noted. His weeks-old administration has been met with mass protests, contentious confirmation hearings for his cabinet picks and a legal showdown over a controversial immigration order.

Buffett has long been bullish on prospects for businesses in the US and few have benefited more than he from the nation’s economic prosperity, Bloomberg said. Over the past five decades, he amassed a $76bn fortune building Berkshire into a sprawling conglomerate with interests in insurance, energy, manufacturing, media, retail and transportation.

Berkshire’s Class A shares have climbed 15 percent since election day, bringing the company’s market capitalisation to more than $400bn for the first time, Bloomberg said.

Buffett remained high on "planet-friendly technology," particularly wind energy, noting "when it comes to wind energy, Iowa is the Saudi Arabia of America," USA Today reported. 

He said Berkshire Hathaway energy is a leader in this area, noting the megawatt-hours his companies generated from wind in 2016 equalled 55 percent of all megawatt-hours sold to its Iowa relations customers. New wind projects, he said, will boost that figure to 89 percent by 2020.

The letter accompanied Berkshire Hathaway's release of 2016 fourth-quarter and full-year earnings.

The company reported a net profit of $6.3bn in the October-December period, a gain of nearly 15 percent from a year earlier.

For all of 2016, net profit came in at $24.1bn, slightly lower than the prior year.

Berkshire, which has stakes in Kraft Heinz, Coca-Cola and a number of other companies, and recently invested in Apple, has benefited from the Wall Street rally after Trump's election.

Berkshire gained $27.5bn in net worth during 2016, Buffett said.