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Buffett says Berkshire has begun share buybacks

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Warren Buffett's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.B-N) has begun its share buybacks, the billionaire investor said Friday, but the repurchases will not stop the company from also making acquisitions or spending on infrastructure for its portfolio of companies.

Buffett, in a CNBC interview from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, also said Berkshire bought a net $4 billion US of common stock on the market in the third quarter as sharp declines presented opportunities to invest cheaply.

Berkshire stunned the market earlier this week with the buyback program. The company said it would pay up to 10 percent more than book value for shares.

Investors said the program meant Berkshire was probably undervalued by 30 percent or more.

Buffett said the paperwork to start the buybacks was completed Thursday. Berkshire Class A shares are up sharply from the pre-buyback levels of late last week.

While Berkshire has said it could spend heavily on shares, Buffett said on Friday the company would still make acquisitions and would end up spending $7 billion this year on plant and equipment for its portfolio of companies.

As he has all year long, he said such investments were a bet on the economic strength of the United States. "It's very, very unlikely we'll go back into a recession," Buffett said.

While Buffett was on the NYSE floor to help mark the 50th anniversary of his portfolio company, Business Wire, he is also in New York to host a fundraiser for President Barack Obama, who has adopted his plan for the rich to pay a higher rate of tax than they do now.

Buffett -- who said the White House had asked for permission to put his name on the plan -- estimated that about 50,000 people nationwide would pay more taxes under the proposal.

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