Buffett: The Eurozone Is Flawed

This article has been adapted from our sister site across the pond, Fool U.K.

One thing I like about Warren Buffett is that when I read his words, I often think "Yeah, that's obvious -- why didn't I think of it?"

And in an interview with CNBC, in which Buffett has been voicing his thoughts on the eurozone, many will see more of the same.

Talking of the 17-member single currency group, the sage opined that "the system as presently designed has revealed a major flaw, and that flaw won't be corrected just by words." If it does survive, which Buffett thinks is in doubt, European countries will need to come together more closely or come up with some sort of rearrangement. But as it stands, the system is not working.

The ability to print money
The contrast with the U.S., which has also suffered its share of the banking crisis after billions in mortgage-back securities were suddenly recognized as worthless, could hardly be greater. The U.S. means to get back on track, and to the envy of a large swathe of the eurozone, it has exactly the right tools to do it -- total control over its own currency and its own monetary policy. Eat your heart out Greece, Italy, and Spain.

In fact, the big euro weakness that Buffett highlighted was that all 17 member states have voluntary given up their rights to issues bonds in their own currencies; to effectively print their own money. Buffett describes that ability as an enormous asset -- and an enormous liability if you don't have it.

But while Buffett says he has no idea how the eurozone crisis will end, he does see some investment bargains in European companies.

Bargains to be had
Telling us that Berkshire Hathaway will be making an investment in one large European company over the coming days, Buffett also reckons he'll buy more Tesco (NYSE: TESO  ) shares should they come down in price, after having already taken a significant stake in the U.K.'s leading supermarket. And that's saying something, after Tesco shares have already greatly outstripped the FTSE this year. 

So, what is he looking for in his investment search? Well, the same as for the past 60 years. He wants big companies with a sustainable competitive advantage, whose shares are fundamentally undervalued, and which are run well by honest people.

How does he sum it up? "Any time stocks go down I buy more of them. I like buying things on sale." Does all this, with the hindsight we now have, sound obvious to you? It's a shame it wasn't obvious to the leaders of the EU back in 1999.

By the way, if you want to find out just why Warren Buffett is so keen on Tesco, then you'll want to read this free Fool report.

More from Alan Oscroft:

The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco.

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  • Report this Comment On December 05, 2011, at 2:40 PM, MHedgeFundTrader wrote:

    The garlic eaters don't want to repay their debts, and the beer drinkers don't want to lend them any more money. That pretty much sums up the financial tensions that exist within Europe right now. The PIIGS countries of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece's, and Spain are lurching from one emergency financing to the next. European interest rates are sky high. Never mind that much of that money was borrowed to buy Mercedes, BMW's and Volkswagens, which enriched Germany's economy mightily.

    This is one of many reasons why I think the Euro will continue to fall against the dollar, possibly to as low as the mid $1.10's sometime in 2012. The US is growing, and Europe is not. End of story. American interest rates are rising, while Europe's are not. Another end of story. This always attracts capital to flow out of the low yielding currency and into the high yielding one, which is creating a rising tide of buyers of greenbacks and sellers of Euro's.

    On Friday, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese bonds traded better than expected. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted they might bend a little on terms. The China and Japan have said they would happily take down a chunk of the high yielding European debt. With ten year Japanese Government Bonds yielding a paltry 1%, can you blame them?

    The Mad Hedge Fund Trader

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