Berkshire's annual meeting will certainly celebrate the strong growth of many of the firm's operating units and its stock market portfolio. Still, there are questions over who might take over as CEO after Buffett, who at 82 years old, continues to show little sign of slowing, as evidenced by a joint deal with 3G Capitalto buy Heinz, the iconic ketchup maker. Technical financial matters such as share buybacks and the prospect of a dividend are also likely to be topics raised by investors, in the firm's Saturday afternoon question and answer session. If there is an elephant in the room in Omaha's CenturyLink Center, where the shareholder meeting will occur, it is roughly $12 billion in free cash flow and $35 billion in pro-forma cash Buffett and Berkshire will wield for future acquisitions.
Buffett has called Berkshire's cash an elephant gun to bag large acquisitions and said in his 2012 shareholder letter he remains on the prowl for big deals. At last year's shareholder meeting, Buffett said the firm had nearly signed onto a $20-billion acquisition, but dropped out over a disagreement on price. CNBC's David Faber reported earlier in 2013 that Berkshire was an unnamed bidder for NYSE Euronext ( NYX) in the stock exchange's proxy filing detailing its merger with IntercontinentalExchange ( ICE). If Buffett does shoot his so-called elephant guns for acquisitions, expect another high quality company such as Heinz or BNSF Railway to be within Berkshire's gaze. "It's far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price," Buffett said in his 1989 shareholder letter. For some topics on investors' minds heading into Berkshire's annual meeting, see why Buffett's buyback math is a key to bank earnings. Also see why Berkshire will be taking a stake in Goldman Sachs later in 2013. -- Written by Antoine Gara in New York.Follow @antoinegara