Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. published its highly-anticipated annual letter this morning, offer details on the conglomerate’s investments in 2020. In this year’s letter, Buffett touted that Apple ranks as Berkshire’s biggest common stock investment, even though the conglomerate sold 9.81 million shares of AAPL at the end of 2020.
Warren Buffett on AAPL:
Buffett touts AAPL as a stock that “vividly illustrates the power of repurchases.” Berkshire first began acquiring Apple stock in late 2016, and it currently holds $120 billion worth of the stock, at a cost of $31.1 billion.
Berkshire’s investment in Apple vividly illustrates the power of repurchases. We began buying Apple stock late in 2016 and by early July 2018, owned slightly more than one billion Apple shares (split-adjusted).
When we finished our purchases in mid-2018, Berkshire’s general account owned 5.2% of Apple.
Buffett also says that Berkshire sold a small portion of its AAPL stake at the end of 2020, pocketing $11 billion. Because of Apple’s buybacks, however, which reduce the total number of outstanding shares, Berkshires ownership of AAPL has increased to 5.4% despite that sale:
Since then, we have both enjoyed regular dividends, averaging about $775 million annually, and have also – in 2020 – pocketed an additional $11 billion by selling a small portion of our position.
Despite that sale – voila! – Berkshire now owns 5.4% of Apple. That increase was costless to us, coming about because Apple has continuously repurchased its shares, thereby substantially shrinking the number it now has outstanding.
This also has benefits for Berkshire shareholders, Buffett explains in the letter:
But that’s far from all of the good news. Because we also repurchased Berkshire shares during the 21⁄2 years, you now indirectly own a full 10% more of Apple’s assets and future earnings than you did in July 2018.
As Bloomberg reports, Buffett resisted buying Apple stock for years because he said he failed to understand the technology company. Working with investing deputies Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, however, Berkshire expanded and has also since added other technology companies such as Amazon and Verizon.
AAPL is now one of Berkshire’s top three most valuable assets, aligning with his insurers and BNSF Railway, the American railroad purchase the conglomerate completed in 2010.
Nonetheless, even though Berkshire Hathaway is a major investor in Apple, Warren Buffett himself only switched from a flip phone to the iPhone last year. Buffett said at the time that Apple CEO Tim Cook spent “hours” teaching him how to use his new iPhone 11.
You can read the full Berkshire Hathaway annual letter right here.
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