Billionaire Warren Buffett, calling turmoil in the markets an "economic Pearl Harbor," said his $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs is an endorsement of the Treasury's $700 billion bank-rescue plan
Billionaire Warren Buffett, calling turmoil in the markets an “economic Pearl Harbor,” said his $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs is an endorsement of the Treasury’s $700 billion bank-rescue plan.
“I am betting on the Congress doing the right thing for the American public and passing this bill,” Buffett said on cable channel CNBC Wednesday. “I certainly have a vote of confidence in Goldman and vote of confidence in Congress.”
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are pushing Congress to quickly approve the proposal to remove illiquid assets from the banking system. Buffett is buying a stake in Goldman after three of the investment bank’s biggest competitors collapsed or were forced into emergency sales.
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“I think the Treasury will pay back the $700 billion and make a considerable amount of money,” Buffett said, adding that if he had $700 billion on the government’s terms to buy distressed assets, he would. “Unfortunately, I’m tapped out.”
Goldman’s shares rose $4.95, or 4 percent, to close at $130 Wednesday after the agreement with Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway was announced late Tuesday. The perpetual preferred shares will pay 10 percent interest and Buffett will get the right to buy $5 billion in common stock in the next five years at $115 a share.
Buffett, 78, has frequently scolded Wall Street for shoddy accounting and risky investments. He invested in the most profitable U.S. investment bank a week after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America. Bear Stearns in March was absorbed by JPMorgan Chase.
“It’s not like Pearl Harbor where you could look at what happened with your own eyes and decide you had to do something that day,” Buffett said on the cable channel. “This is sort of an economic Pearl Harbor we’re going through.”
The Goldman investment puts Berkshire back in an industry Buffett has mostly shunned since 1997, when Salomon Brothers was sold to Travelers Group. Buffett helped the firm fend off an unwanted takeover in 1987, only to see the New York securities firm trail every U.S. stock index for the next decade.
Berkshire spokeswoman Jackie Wilson didn’t return messages seeking comment.