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Back in the early 90s, when Warren Buffet owned a $1.5 billion position in McDonald’s stock, he called my office and asked for a little help. It seemed that he and his friend Bill Gates and their families were planning a vacation trip to China, and had chartered a Chinese train to carry them across the country. Buffet was a McDonald’s fan, and asked if we could guide him to our restaurants along his route. We helped make it easy for he and his party to drop in at a McDonald’s whenever their hunger for hamburgers and fries arose. He talked about that trip for years.

By 2008, Buffet had invested $200 million in Chinese transportation, in a major Chinese car company, BYD, which was developing technology and production capability to build electric cars. By the way, BYD means Build Your Dreams. Really. BYD is slow getting off the mark, but they may yet become a factor in the electric car revolution.

Now, in 2012, Buffet appears on Chinese State Television, wishing the country well in their Year of the Dragon Chinese New Years celebration.   And then he appears, in the same broadcast, playing his ukulele (http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2012/01/23/see-warren-buffett-sing-and-play-the-ukulele/) in front of a model railroad, singing “I’ve been working on the railroad.” With the background that we know Buffet likes trains, including trains in China, and that Berkshire Hathaway not long back invested $20 billion in the Burlington Northern railroad over here, I wonder if he’s sending a signal that he may now be interested in getting financially involved somehow in the rails in China?

Stay tuned.

January 2012
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