Investor and billionaire Warren Buffett believes Japan's devastating earthquake is the kind of extraordinary event that creates a buying opportunity for shares in Japanese companies.
On a visit on Monday to a South Korean factory run by a company owned by one of his funds, Buffett said, "It will take some time to rebuild, but it will not change the economic future of Japan. If I owned Japanese stocks, I would certainly not be selling them.
"Frequently, something out of the blue like this, an extraordinary event, really creates a buying opportunity. I have seen that happen in the United States, I have seen that happen around the world. I don't think Japan will be an exception," said the 80-year-old investor, dubbed the "Sage of Omaha" for his successful long-term investment strategy.
Buffett heads Berkshire Hathaway Inc, which has substantial insurance and utility investments globally.
EYE ON KOREA
Buffett, ranked the world's third-richest man by Forbes this year, said he was also looking to buy entire businesses and large-cap shares in South Korea -- where Berkshire is already a leading shareholder in steelmaker POSCO.
He said geopolitical risks associated with North Korea had not curbed his interest in South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy. Berkshire also owns a stake in Chinese car and battery maker BYD.
Buffett did not disclose any holdings in Japan on Monday, and Berkshire Hathaway's annual report did not show any major investments there. He had been due to visit Japan later this week, but canceled due to the earthquake.
Unlike many foreign fund managers, Buffett, who arrived in the southeastern city of Daegu on Sunday by private jet, won plaudits from ordinary South Koreans.
Sporting gray sweat pants and running shoes, Buffett was greeted by signs reading "Mr Buffett: Daegu Loves You."
Many in this country of nearly 50 million people have bad memories of the 1998 Asian financial crisis when a deal with the International Monetary Fund bailed out the country but at the cost of tens of thousands of jobs.
Some U.S. hedge funds have been branded "vultures" for buying South Korean assets on the cheap in the wake of that crisis.
"It's a once in a life-time opportunity. I'm honored to meet such a respected businessman," said Seo Hyun-joo, a housewife wearing Korean traditional dress.
Buffett later meets South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul and heads to India on Tuesday to launch his firm's insurance selling portal.