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Buffett says Japan quake a ‘buying opportunity’

SEOUL, March 21, 2011 (AFP) – US billionnaire investor Warren Buffett said Monday that a massive natural disaster would not hamper the future of the Japanese economy and could prompt a new bout of stock buying.

“I’m not looking at Japan’s economic future differently from 10 days ago… extraordinary events offer (a) buying opportunity,” he told reporters.

Buffett, the chairman of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, was visiting South Korea to attend a ground-breaking ceremony for a local unit of Israel’s Iscar Metalworking Companies, 80 percent owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

Japan’s Nikkei index lost around 10 percent in the week following the devastating March 11 quake and tsunami.

Buffett, however, urged against selling Japanese stock — markets were closed in Tokyo on Monday — and said Japan would recover relatively quickly, Yonhap news agency said.

The disaster, which has left 8,649 people dead and 13,262 missing, could cost the Japanese economy up to $235 billion, the World Bank said Monday.

Growth, however, should pick up in subsequent quarters “as reconstruction efforts, which could last five years, accelerate”, it said.

Buffett, known as the “Oracle of Omaha” for his investment savvy, said Berkshire was seeking further acquisitions worldwide including South Korea following its $9 billion purchase of US lubricant maker Lubrizol.

“We’re looking at a number of big businesses in Korea, the US, the UK. We hope to find good companies wherever they may be. Basically, it’s the bigger, the better,” he said.

The tycoon also played down military and nuclear threats from North Korea, saying the communist country “isn’t a big threat” to the firm’s investment in the capitalist South.

Buffett was scheduled to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak later Monday.

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