Warren Buffett's Berkshire takes $1 billion bite of Apple

Mon May 16, 2016 8:52pm EDT
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N: Quote) revealed a more than $1 billion stake in Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) in a rare foray into the technology sector, which Buffett has largely shunned apart from a poorly performing investment in IBM (IBM.N: Quote).

Shares of Apple rose 3.7 percent on the news, closing up $3.36 at $93.88. Berkshire made its investment in the first quarter, before the iPhone maker in April reported its first quarterly revenue decline in 13 years.

The investment was announced amid an increasing view among investors that Apple may deserve a lower valuation because its heady growth days may be over. However, Apple has a strong balance sheet and management, attributes long favored by Berkshire.

"It makes sense because it's a consumer company disguised as a technology company with a great business model, strong cash flow and a cheap valuation," said Jeff Matthews, author of books about Buffett and a principal at the Ram Partners LP hedge fund. "It's not a leap of faith."

In a regulatory filing detailing most of its stock holdings, Berkshire said it held 9.81 million Apple shares worth $1.07 billion as of March 31.

The value of the stake has since fallen to about $921 million, even with Monday's gain. Berkshire's largest technology bet has been Buffett's roughly $12.1 billion stake in International Business Machines Corp, an investment now more than $1.6 billion in the red.

Apple stock "is stunningly cheap, and it has a massive pile of cash," said Steve Wallman, founder of Wallman Investment Counsel in Middleton, Wisconsin, who has owned shares of Berkshire since 1982 and Apple since 2003. "Apple is not getting credit for research and development it is doing behind the scenes."

An Apple spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.   Continued...

 
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, takes his seat to speak at the Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Summit in Washington October 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo