Buffett blames banks for credit crisis

Warren Buffett listens to a question during a news conference in Madrid May 21, 2008. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

MADRID (Reuters) - Blame for the sub-prime crisis lies at the feet of banks who took too many risks in mortgage lending, U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett told newspaper El Pais in an interview published on Sunday.

“The banks exposed themselves too much, they took on too much risk .... It’s their fault. There’s no need to blame anyone else,” he said.

Buffett, dubbed the world’s richest person by Forbes magazine, said he believed the situation in financial markets would not deteriorate further.

“I don’t think the situation will get worse in financial markets. General conditions in the business world will get worse, but it will only last a while,” he said, adding he had no idea when an upturn would come.

Buffett gave the interview on a recent visit to Madrid, as part of a European tour including Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Spain on the look out for new investments.

He said the idea of the trip was to increase awareness amongst European businesses of his holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N, which holds stakes in businesses ranging from American Express Co AXP.N to Coca-Cola Co KO.N.

He said he wanted business owners to think of him when they were looking to sell.

“We want to buy big companies that earn at least 50 million euros ($78.6 million) before taxes, and there’s more of those in Europe than in other parts of the world,” he said.

He would not be drawn on what companies in particular he was looking at, other than saying he was not interested in distressed businesses.

Reporting by Sonya Dowsett