In the spirit of Black Friday week, Warren Buffett appears to be shopping for a discount. He’s starting by looking at a country rattled by scandal and natural disasters.
Buffett visited Japan today. The world’s foremost investor took a tour of the Tohuko region, an area hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami that leveled the country last March. Along with his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B, BRK-A), Buffett is searching for companies that have become undervalued in the wake of a rough year for the world’s No. 3 economy.
“I like low prices, and low prices create investment value,” Buffett told the Dow Jones Newswires. “The tsunami didn’t change Japanese people and Japanese businesses.”
It was Buffett’s first-ever visit to Japan. But an investment in Japan wouldn’t be his first Asian holding. Berkshire already has stakes in Chinese car manufacturer BYD Co., and South Korea’s Posco, the world’s third-largest steel company. Berkshire also has plans to enter India’s insurance market.
Buffett and Berkshire have been on a buying binge lately. He bought a $10 billion stake in IBM (NYSE: IBM), threw $5 billion at Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and acquired Lubrizol Corp. (NYSE: LZ) for $9 billion.
Besides the earthquake and tsunami, Japan took another hit when camera maker Olympus Corp. revealed that it had been concealing losses by paying inflated advisory fees. That raised questions about the country’s corporate governance standards. But Buffett says he’s not worried about the Olympus effect.
“We’re looking for companies that have some kind of sustainable competitive advantage,” Buffett said. “The fact that Olympus happens here or Enron happens in the U.S. doesn’t affect our attitudes at all.”
Buffett hasn’t yet revealed what Japanese companies he plans to invest in. But he did say he hopes to invest a billion dollars or more in the country.