April 27, 2020 / 2:07 PM / a month ago

Buffett and Abel, but not Munger, to field questions at Berkshire annual meeting

April 27 (Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc will hold a truncated virtual annual meeting on Saturday where its billionaire chairman will be present but his longtime Vice Chairman Charlie Munger will not.

Berkshire said on Monday that Buffett, 89, and Vice Chairman Greg Abel, 57, will be physically present to answer shareholder questions at the afternoon meeting, but other directors including Munger and Vice Chairman Ajit Jain will be absent.

The meeting is normally part of a weekend of festive events that draws more than 40,000 people to Omaha, Nebraska, where Berkshire is based, but the coronavirus pandemic forced Berkshire to scrap those events and keep shareholders away.

Many Berkshire directors live far from Omaha, including Munger, 96, and Jain, 68.

Abel oversees Berkshire's non-insurance operating businesses such as the BNSF railroad and Dairy Queen ice cream, while Jain oversees insurance businesses such as the Geico auto insurer.

In past years, Munger has joined Buffett on the stage of a downtown Omaha arena to answer five hours of shareholder questions. Abel and Jain also fielded some questions last year.

Buffett and Abel will not be given this year's questions in advance, a policy Berkshire has long maintained.

They may be asked about how the pandemic has affected Berkshire, markets, the economy and Buffett's long-term outlook, and how and when Berkshire plans to spend its cash hoard, which totaled $128 billion as of Dec. 31.

Berkshire is also scheduled on Saturday morning to release first-quarter results.

While many operating businesses should be profitable, Berkshire will likely post a huge net loss because of unrealized losses on stock investments such as Bank of America and the four largest U.S. airlines.

Buffett has long said quarterly investment gains and losses are usually meaningless, and investors should focus on Berkshire's operating results.

Munger told The Wall Street Journal this month that the pandemic will cause Berkshire to close a few small businesses.

The annual meeting will be streamed live on Yahoo Finance. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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