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Charlie Munger Says Berkshire Playing It Safe During Coronavirus; Outcome Of Crisis Could Be 'A Different Kind Of Mess'

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Charlie Munger Says Berkshire Playing It Safe During Coronavirus; Outcome Of Crisis Could Be 'A Different Kind Of Mess'

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is prioritizing caution and safety during the coronavirus pandemic to best protect its investors, his right-hand man Charlie Munger told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

Berkshire's Priority Is Liquidity 

Buffett wants to keep Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) "safe" for its investors who have 90% of their net worth invested in the stock, Munger, Berkshire's 96-year-old vice chairman, told WSJ.

The firm's top priority is to weather the storm and emerge "with a whole lot of liquidity," he said.

"We're not playing, ‘oh goody, goody, everything's going to hell, let's plunge 100% of the reserves [into buying businesses]."

Companies 'Frozen,' Munger Says 

Some of the beaten-up companies, like airlines, don't know what's going on, Munger said. Typically, a troubled company would pick up the phone to speak with Buffett to work on a financing deal, but companies are instead busy negotiating with the government, he said. 

"They're frozen," Munger said. "They've never seen anything like it. Their playbook does not have this as a possibility."

Munger Says Outcome Could Be 'A Different Kind Of Mess' 

Berkshire's vast holdings across real estate, utilities, insurance, airlines and other sectors doesn't give the investment firm any unique ability to guess how bad the economy will get, its vice chairman said. While a recession is all but a guarantee, it is unclear how long it will last and the total damage it will cause, Munger said. 

The federal government will "be so active" that the worst-case scenario won't be a long-lasting Great Depression, he said. 

"But we may have a different kind of a mess," Munger said. "All this money-printing may start bothering us."

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