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I think this was a couple of years ago - I'll have to look. He asked the shareholders to vote, and 96% (IIRC) said they didn't want a dividend.

No, that was in 2014. But I'm referring to what Buffett said at the annual meeting last year:

Jay Gelb from the analyst panel asks if Berkshire will consider raising its buyback floor higher than 120% of book value, reminding the audience that Mr. Buffett said last year that raising the floor might be an option if Berkshire had $100 billion or $120 billion in cash sitting around and it “really becomes apparent that we can not use capital effectively within the company.”

In the just released first-quarter earnings, Berkshire showed that it now holds more than $95 billion in cash and cash equivalents (including Treasurys), an all-time high.

Mr. Buffett says that a time could come “reasonably soon, even while I am around” when Berkshire will have more cash than it can reasonably and profitably deploy. And Berkshire may choose to return those funds with additional stock buybacks, or it “could be dividends.”

That’s a rather new insight. In the past, Mr. Buffett has suggested that a dividend almost certainly wouldn’t be on the table until after he had given up the reins. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Gelb didn't utter the word "dividend," so Mr. Buffett introduced the idea of his own accord.

One issue with a potential dividend, he says, is that there is an expectation that a company won’t cut it unless it faces problems.

But, he says, “if we felt that we had cash that was unlikely to be used in a reasonable period of time,” the company would need to explore the options of how to return it.

In the past, Mr. Buffett has said over and over and over again that he doesn't think Berkshire should pay a dividend--at least not in his lifetime. If there ever comes a time that Berkshire does declare a dividend, Mr. Buffett has said repeatedly, that’ll mean the good investing ideas have dried up. Mr. Buffett has predicted that Berkshire shares will fall, not rise, if the firm moves to pay a dividend.

Right now, Mr. Buffett says, “we are still optimistic enough about deploying the capital” that he doesn’t want to raise the buyback floor or pay a dividend. He acknowledges that “the burden of proof is definitely on us,” but says that “history is on our side” in terms of finding good ways of deploying capital.

“I am sure that some time in the next 10 years… there will be markets where we can do intelligent things on a big scale,” but he doesn’t know when that might be. That time might be nine years away, and if that’s the case, “there’s no way I can come back to you three years from now” if Berkshire’s cash pile is at $150 billion, and “tell you that’s a good move.”

With no major acquisitions since then, and with potential acquisitions at sky-high prices, and about $120b in cash now, and cash coming in perhaps even faster after the tax cut, that dividend is looking less and less far-fetched...
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