IBM Just Made Buffett's Year


Almost three weeks ago, shares of IBMplummeted more than 10% after the tech giant missed earnings estimates for its first quarter of 2013.

Naturally, the world winced in pain on behalf of Warren Buffett, who through Berskhire Hathway held a mind-boggling 68,115,484 shares of IBM at of the end of last year.

As fellow Fool John Maxfield so kindly pointed out, it was safe to say Berkshire looked like it was having a bad week as it had "lost" nearly $1.4 billion in a matter of hours. Of course, those were only losses on paper, and John also aptly noted Buffett probably didn't even flinch on the drop. After all, the Oracle has weathered more than his fair share of market fluctuations since he took control of Berkshire in 1964.

However, I'm willing to take it a step further to say not only did Buffett keep his wits about him when IBM fell, but he was probably happy as a clam that day.

Wait, what?
You read that right. I think Buffett likely wore a huge smile on his face after he got the news.

Consider Buffett's own words from his 2011 annual letter to Berkshire shareholders:

Today, IBM has 1.16 billion shares outstanding, of which we own about 63.9 million or 5.5%. Naturally, what happens to the company's earnings over the next five years is of enormous importance to us. Beyond that, the company will likely spend $50 billion or so in those years to repurchase shares. Our quiz for the day: What should a long-term shareholder, such as Berkshire, cheer for during that period?

I won't keep you in suspense. We should wish for IBM's stock price to languish throughout the five years.

Buffett went on to give an example of his math and highlights the fact that, given its huge stake in IBM, Berkshire's slice of the pie stands to grow substantially as IBM buys back a massive number of its own shares.

And this example, of course, served as the precursor to one of Buffett's most oft-quoted statements that year:

The logic is simple: If you are going to be a net buyer of stocks in the future, either directly with your own money or indirectly (through your ownership of a company that is repurchasing shares), you are hurt when stocks rise. You benefit when stocks swoon. Emotions, however, too often complicate the matter: Most people, including those who will be net buyers in the future, take comfort in seeing stock prices advance. These shareholders resemble a commuter who rejoices after the price of gas increases, simply because his tank contains a day's supply.

Unfortunately, too many investors have a hard time grasping this seemingly simple logic, so they predictably chime in after one of Buffett's holdings takes a temporary dive to say he's lost his touch.

Foolish final thoughts
As though right on queue, IBM reaffirmed Buffett's thinking last week by announcing it will hike its buyback program by another $5 billion, bringing the total funds currently available for share repurchases to $11.2 billion. In addition, IBM also increased its quarterly dividend for the 18th consecutive year, this time by 12% to $0.95 per share.

Fortunately for Berkshire shareholders, nothing seems to be able to change Buffett's status as arguably the most talented investor our world has ever seen.

In the end, and as per usual, it looks like Buffett still has everything under control.

Thanks to his savvy, Berkshire Hathaway's book value per share has grown a mind-blowing 586,817% over the past 48 years. But with Buffett aging and Berkshire rapidly evolving, is this insurance conglomerate still a buy today? In The Motley Fool's premium report on the company, Berkshire expert Joe Magyer provides investors with key reasons to buy as well as important risks to watch out for. Click here now for instant access to Joe's take on Berkshire!

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Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and International Business Machines. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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