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Five things we learned from Warren Buffett’s interview with the Globe about his Home Capital investment

Five things we learned from Warren Buffett's interview with the Globe about his Home Capital investment
Warren Buffett. Image by Fortune Live Media/Flickr

A couple months ago, things were looking grim for Home Capital. The alternative mortgage lender was in the midst of an old-fashioned bank run, as people who had deposited money in the company’s high-interest savings accounts and GICs withdrew their money en masse, panicked by news that Home Capital had run afoul of the Ontario Securities Commission for allegedly improperly disclosing fraud by some mortgage brokers. (The company eventually paid a settlement.)

Home Capital was able to stave off collapse by taking on some debt, but things were still iffy until late last week, when it emerged that legendary investor Warren Buffet, through a subsidiary of his holding company Berkshire Hathaway, would be advancing Home Capital a new line of credit and investing as much as $400 million in the company. Buffett’s name and reputation have already helped buoy the beleaguered lender’s share price. He granted an interview to the Globe, who published a transcript of the conversation. Here are five things we learned:

Buffett is as clueless about the Canadian housing market as everyone else

He told the Globe his decision to invest in the Canadian alternative mortgage market had nothing to do with the strength (or lack thereof) of the country’s real estate values. "[It] not any specific evaluation by me as to whether the next move in house prices will be up 10 per cent or down 10 per cent,” he said. “I do not know that.”

Buffett reads his email

Apparently, the Home Capital deal came together when Buffett received an unsolicited email from “a fellow that I’d met some years ago who is close to my age, retired.” Subsequent reporting has established that Buffett’s pen pal is Don Johnson, an advisory board member at BMO Capital Markets.

Buffett likes Justin Trudeau

Buffett told the Globe that he’s “bullish on Canada,” partly as a result of a long talk he had with Justin Trudeau and finance minister Bill Morneau. Buffett said his admiration for the PM grew after he watched a YouTube video of Trudeau’s famous boxing match with Patrick Brazeau. "[Trudeau] looked pretty effective to me,” Buffett said.

Buffett has been investing in Canada for a long, long time

“I had, like, four stocks when I was 13 ,and one of them was Noranda [Mines],” Buffet told the Globe. (Noranda was a Quebec-based mining company.)

Buffett is in it for the long haul

Under the terms of the deal, he could technically sell his newly acquired Home Capital shares in as little four months, but Buffett told the Globe he has no intention of doing so. “We’re not buying it to resell in four months or next year or anything of the sort,” he said.

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