Apple’s Shares Rise on News of Buffett Stake

The renowned value investor's rare bet on a tech company suggests he saw a buying opportunity in the stock's sharp decline since last summer.
Katie Kuehner-HebertMay 16, 2016

Warren Buffett has made a rare bet on a technology company, acquiring a $1 billion stake in Apple.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday that it owned 9.81 million shares of Apple as of March 31. The filing did not say whether Berkshire has continued buying shares since the quarter ended.

The investment has dropped in value after Apple last month reported its first quarterly decline in revenue since 2003. On news of Buffett’s move, the stock was up 3.5%, at $93.70, in trading Monday.

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The renowned value investor has generally steered clear of the tech sector, saying four years ago that he didn’t know how to value a company like Apple. He has built his empire on investments in insurers, financial companies and industrial businesses.

“In Apple, Berkshire likely saw a buying opportunity,” The Wall Street Journal said, noting that the stock is off sharply from last summer’s highs amid a maturing market for Apple’s flagship iPhone product.

MarketWatch said the stock is cheap according to two metrics that Buffett favors. Apple ranks ninth in the S&P 1500’s technology sector for five-year return on invested capital and the shares are trading for only 10.9 times the consensus 2016 earnings estimate.

Berkshire made its first big tech play in 2011 when it reported a position valued at more than $10 billion in IBM. The firm is also reportedly backing a consortium that is bidding for Yahoo’s core internet business.

Another high-profile investor, Carl Icahn, reported last month that he had sold his large stake in Apple, saying it was a great company but no longer a “no-brainer” as an investment choice.

Buffett told the WSJ that Berkshire’s Apple investment was made by one of its two investment managers, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler.

“It signals a change in the kind of company Apple is,” Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, told the Financial Times. “There are new investors — it used to be growth and high-risk investors, now it’s more value and return on capital.”