FRANKFURT, Germany - 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 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," 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," Buffett said without elaborating. "I know you want names, but you won't get any."
Buffett, 77, whose family ran a grocery store for 100 years until 1969 in Omaha, Neb., said that any company can eventually face having, or wanting, to sell.
"It would be a good choice for them to contact us if they wanted to," he said, adding that Berkshire Hathaway could probably preserve the quality of those companies.
He said family companies often had a much longer planning time frame, do not have to answer to shareholders or Wall Street, and could be more in line with Berkshire's strategy.
He said again that his company had no plans to buy the Royal Bank of Scotland Group P.L.C.'s insurance operations.
Buffett said his trip to seek out opportunities among Europe's biggest family-owned companies would include stops in Switzerland, Spain and Italy.
Berkshire, which is based in Omaha, has about $35 billion in cash and is looking to invest. Berkshire's subsidiaries include insurance, clothing, furniture, natural gas, corporate-jet and candy companies. Berkshire also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co. and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.
Buffett said he would not let the weak dollar alone deter him, even though it makes 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 today and Madrid tomorrow, wrapping up with a visit to Milan on Thursday.