Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has canceled a trip next week to attend a plant opening ceremony of Tungaloy Corp. in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture following the nation’s strongest earthquake.
Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., was originally scheduled to arrive in Fukushima, north of Tokyo, on March 21 and attend the ceremony the next day, Tungaloy said in an e-mailed statement. Buffett didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail sent yesterday to his assistant, Debbie Bosanek.
The 8.9-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami on March 11 in Japan may have killed 10,000 in Miyagi prefecture north of Tokyo, according to the police. Radiation levels around the Tokyo Electric Power Co. station in Fukushima, 135 miles north (217 kilometers) of the capital, rose after cooling systems at a second reactor failed, heightening concerns about a possible meltdown following an explosion over the weekend.
Buffett, 80, was scheduled to visit Japan to attend a ceremony hosted by Tungaloy, owned by Iscar Metalworking Cos., Berkshire’s largest acquisition of a non-U.S. firm.
The billionaire investor is still scheduled to visit TaeguTec Ltd., a Daegu, South Korea-based manufacturer, on March 21, said Yang Sun Young, a spokeswoman at the Korean firm.
Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire has been transformed by Buffett over four decades from a failing textile maker to a $200 billion seller of insurance, electrical power and consumer goods. Berkshire doesn’t pay a dividend or buy back shares, leaving Buffett with the task of investing the firm’s earnings in stocks, bonds and takeovers.
Buffett, also Berkshire’s chief executive officer and biggest shareholder, paid $4 billion for 80 percent of Iscar in 2006. In 2009, he injected about $2.6 billion into Swiss Reinsurance Co., the second-biggest seller of backstop coverage for insurers.
His net worth was estimated at $50 billion by Forbes magazine, which this month ranked him as the world’s third-richest person after billionaires Carlos Slim and Bill Gates.