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Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio), the Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B), needs no introduction. Likely the most successful investor of all time, Buffett recently talked to Becky Quick after releasing Berkshire's annual letter to shareholders during the weekend.
Quick questions him about covid-19, colloquially known as the Wuhan Coronavirus. Two things about his responses really stood out to me: 1) Buffett thinks the virus will still be here through the summer, and 2) it may well affect the famous Berkshire Hathaway meeting.
Buffett gave some credit to his long time friend and Microsoft (MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates (Trades, Portfolio), who he talks to about science subjects. Gates knows a lot about viruses because of his philanthropic work with the Gates foundation. Based on information from Gates, Buffett believes that covid-19 is likely to be around through the summer. Some people think the virus may disappear as spring arrives, like the flu. However, the weather in Italy (or Iran for that matter) is pretty spring-like at the moment, and the virus seems to be teeming over there.
Additionally, Buffett receives monthly commentary from the 70 or so Berkshire subsidiaries. A good many of them had some comments about the new coronavirus in their monthly update. Buffett has no idea how businesses will be doing 6 or 12 months from now, which may imply that he doesn't think it will be doing great anytime soon. He's certain American business and Berkshire's business will do great 20-30 years from now.
One datapoint Buffett gave in the interview is that Berkshire owns about a thousand Dairy Queens in China. Most of these are now closed, and the rest aren't doing any business either. Baidu (BIDU) isn't exactly providing granular detail at the level of Google maps, but I was able to pull up some locations and they are basically all over the country, not just in the Hubei province. It is somewhat disconcerting to see that basically the entire country is, at least temporarily, out of business.
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