Warren Buffett, known as The Oracle of Omaha and the world's third richest man, has announced he has stage 1 prostate cancer .But said his condition "is not remotely life-threatening or even debilitating in any meaningful way."

Seen here opening a new factory near the Fukushima plant in Japan,The 81-year-old Head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, is likely to intensify the already brewing debate about who his successor will be at the head, of the conglomerate company .Which employs more than 270,000 people in more than 70 businesses around the world.

Buffett told investors in late February that Berkshire had identified his successor, but in typically circumspect fashion, he declined to say who it was - and ultimately admitted that even the chosen one does not know, himself.

The news of his illness meant Berkshire shares FELL 1.55 % in after-hours trading on the news. With the widely held Class B shares UP 5.9 %. in the year-to-date. Currently half the gains of the broader S&P 500.

And this announcement comes just 3 weeks ahead of the Berkshire AGM meeting which attracts some 40,000 shareholders and is planned to be the first time Buffet will take open questions from the sell-side analysts. One Berkshire investor said it was reasonable to assume people would panic at the news of Buffett's illness, but that nothing had actually changed in the case for the stock.