Who will be Buffett's successor?

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He had been chief executive of its MidAmerican Energy Co subsidiary, which provides electric and natural gas service in four Midwest U.S. states, and BHE Renewables, which builds wind and solar farms.

The conglomerate, with names as diverse as Dairy Queen ice-cream shops to Fruit of the Loom underwear to GEICO vehicle insurance, expanded its board to 14 members, with Berkshire energy chief Gregory Abel and Berkshire reinsurance president Ajit Jain filling the new slots.

Warren Buffett's main focus isn't delivering stock price gains for Berkshire's shareholders every year. Mr. Jain, the longtime head of Berkshire's vast reinsurance operations, will serve as vice chairman of Berkshire's insurance operations.

Analysts immediately saw the move as positioning one or both of them as eventually succeeding Buffett at the top of the sprawling conglomerate which is now valued a $US505 billion.

Who Berkshire would pick to succeed Mr. Buffett as chief executive has always been on the minds of investors. After the announcement on Wednesday, they were up around 1% at $US306,819.

Buffett said on CNBC on Wednesday that the new board members are "part of a movement toward succession over time". So it's very good for Berkshire.

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A widely admired figure because of his commitment to long-term investing and his folksy bearing, Buffett said he remained in "remarkably good health", but running the company for another 10 years "would be a long time".

Having said that, it would take a lot for 2018 to be the best year in Berkshire's history.

This confirmed expectations of many investors and analysts that Abel and Jain are the frontrunners to become Berkshire's chief executive whenever Buffett, 87, is no longer in charge. Someone will move up to be CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, he said, but otherwise there will be no changes in personnel as a result of the promotions. Under him Berkshire's re-insurance business has grown to be one of the largest in the world. Buffett and Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway's vice chairman, will keep their positions on the board.

Visa will stop requiring signatures for purchases made in North America using chip-card technology, a win for big bricks-and-mortar retailers that could help them cut the cost of accepting plastic.

The most recent major play overseen by Mr Buffett was the investment in Apple starting in early 2016 that has seen Berkshire become the iPhone company's largest shareholder.

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