WARREN BUFFETT famously likes his businesses simple to understand and transparent. Why, then, has his conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, poured $6bn into 5% stakes in Japan’s five biggest trading houses? Mitsubishi, Itochu, Mitsui, Marubeni and Sumitomo do not appear to meet either criterion. They run a bewildering array of subsidiaries in most sectors of the economy. In that they bear a passing resemblance to Berkshire itself. Prehaps more important, though, they satisfied two other Buffett must-haves: their shares, dented by covid-19, looked cheap, and they pay reliable dividends.?
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