Billionaire investor Warren Buffett likes Apple: In an interview on CNBC on Monday, he revealed his company, Berkshire Hathaway, had doubled its holding in Apple, bringing its stake to $18 billion, or 133 million shares.
At Apple's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook said that he was "very proud" that Berkshire Hathaway had invested in the iPhone company.
"I think what's good for Apple is to have long term shareholders," Cook said. "We're very proud that Berkshire Hathaway is now a shareholder because they tend to be a long shareholder."
Cook went on to discuss what Apple could do to encourage more shareholders like Buffett, who tend to buy stock and hold on to it for years, and sometimes decades.
"[CFO] Luca [Maestri] and I have talked about, could we sort of structure a dividend, with the board's approval obviously, such that it pays for longer term shareholding as opposed to shorter. There's lots about that that I like," Cook said.
"It's not clear how to pull this off on a practical basis. I think we have to keep the communication going and be more attractive to longer term shareholders like the Berkshire Hathaways and others," Cook said, adding that he hopes there are tax changes to disincentivize shareholders moving in and out of stocks frequently.
Turns out, although Buffett famously eschews technology companies, Apple is a perfect fit for his investing philosophy.
Although he's not an expert in the software or technology that goes into the iPhone — in fact, he uses a flip phone — Berkshire Hathaway now owns 2.5% of Apple's outstanding shares.
While Apple isn't Coca-Cola or Wells Fargo, other blue-chip stocks Berkshire Hathaway holds in large numbers, it checks off all the boxes Buffett looks for in its "value" investing philosophy, according to a recent story from The Wall Street Journal.
Here's what Berkshire Hathaway looks for:
A low valuation. Apple's forward price-to-earnings ratio, a way to gauge how expensive a stock is, is currently at 14.6 — significantly lower than other tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, which have PE ratios that suggest massive future growth.
Regular and predictable dividends and buybacks. Apple has paid out more than $4 per share in dividends over the past two years, and has bought back 760 million shares since 2013. Apple spent nearly $11 billion in the 4th quarter of 2016 on buybacks alone.
A strong consumer brand. According to a recent survey by Brand Finance, Apple has the second most valuable brand in the world, behind only Google.
The feeling is mutual
Buffett hasn't spoken with Cook yet about his stake in Apple. "I usually see him maybe twice a year. I see him at Sun Valley and perhaps one other time," he told CNBC.
But given his proclivity to buy stakes in companies and keep them for years, Cook can feel justified in predicting Buffett investing in Apple for the long run.
It's a change from some previous high-profile Apple investors, such as Carl Ichan, who sold his remaining stake in Apple last year. While he was an Apple investor, he sometimes wrote open letters to Cook, giving his opinions on unannounced product and the stock's ultimate value.
Buffett's investment thesis is not based on an Apple Car or Apple television set, though. He's invested in Apple because he likes that its underlying fundamentals are stellar and it products are "sticky," meaning current customers are overwhelmingly likely to be future customers, too. That's a point that Apple executives regularly make during earnings calls and public appearances.
It's another sign that Buffett is investing in Apple for years. He said:
When I take my great-grandchildren to Dairy Queen they bring along friends sometimes. They've all got a iPhone and, you know, I ask 'em what they do with it and how ... whether they could live without it, and when they trade it in what they're gonna do with it. And of course, I see when they come to the furniture mart that people have this incredible stickiness of — with the product. I mean, if they bring in an iPhone, they buy a new iPhone. I mean, they're ... it just has that quality. It gets built into their lives.
That kind of thesis is music to Apple executives. Buffett and Cook will have a lot to discuss the next time they see each other, and for years to come.
RELATED: Warren Buffett's wealth story
Warren Buffett's wealth story
Warren Buffett's wealth story
Warren Buffett Bio: The Early Years
Born Aug. 30, 1930, Buffett was always great with numbers. Aside from recording license plate numbers, Buffett would have his childhood friend Bob Russell quiz him on city populations from an almanac — and Buffett would nail the numbers dead-on.
Though he loved numbers, it was money that truly fascinated Buffett in his early years. At the age of five, Buffett opened a sidewalk gum stand, followed by a lemonade stand — which he placed on Russell’s street where foot traffic was heavier.
Warren Buffett’s Family
Looking at Buffett’s family history could help explain why the Oracle of Omaha was such a natural when it came to money and business. His great grandfather Sidney Homan Buffett perfectly timed the opening of his S.H. Buffett grocery store in 1869, just as the railroad boom took off around Omaha, Neb. Sidney’s son Ernest, Warren’s grandfather, worked in the family business before opening his own successful store, Buffett & Son, in 1915.
Ernest’s son Howard had hopes of being a journalist, but after marrying Leila Stahl — Warren’s mother — in 1925, he took a more secure job at an insurance company. Later, Howard would work as a securities salesman for Union Street Bank when the stock market was hot. But that all changed with the Great Depression.
The Great Depression shaped who Warren Buffett would become. Ernest had been skeptical of the stock market, and the closing of Union Street Bank in 1931 seemed to prove him right. Howard was unemployed and begrudgingly took a loan from his father, instilling in Warren an important lesson against borrowing: Save your credit, for that is better than money.
The double whammy of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in Nebraska forged Warren into a man bent on building wealth. Howard and Warren both were determined to never fall into such hardship again. As they recovered from the Depression, Warren learned the importance of independent thinking from his father, who recited the maxim from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
From his father, Warren also learned about his obligation to give back to the community. And it was his father who introduced young Warren to Wall Street during a trip when he was 10 years old. Fascinated by stocks, Warren bought his first stock at age 11 — three shares of Cities Service preferred for himself and three for his sister. Though Warren made a net profit of $5 from Cities, he could have made far more had he been more patient — a lesson he would hold on to for life.
(Photo by Lee Balterman/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Warren Buffett’s Education
Warren Buffett graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1947 and enrolled in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. The decision for Wharton was due to pressure from his father. Buffett knew he was earning plenty and felt college would be a waste of time and money.
As it turned out, Buffett felt the curriculum was uninteresting. He transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, enrolling in five courses for fall 1949 and six for spring 1950. Juggling full-time work and an accelerated curriculum, Buffett graduated in only three years with a degree in Business Administration.
After getting rejected by Harvard Business School, Buffett enrolled at Columbia Business School. It was there that he would meet his mentor, Benjamin Graham, professor and author of the groundbreaking book “Security Analysis.”
Graham introduced to Buffett a methodical approach to investing in the stock market. In essence, Graham taught Buffett what would be later called value investing: looking for companies so cheap they pose little to no risk but are undervalued given their intrinsic worth. Under Graham’s tutelage, Buffett graduated from Columbia with a Masters in Economics in 1951, worked as an analyst for Graham at Graham-Newman Corp. and established his own successful firm in 1956, the Buffett Partnership.
Warren Buffett: CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Already a successful investor, Warren Buffett eyed a new venture in the struggling textile manufacturing firm Berkshire Hathaway. Horatio Hathaway founded Hathaway Manufacturing Company in 1888 and Berkshire Fine Spinning Association had roots as far back as 1790 to Samuel Slater.
Both companies endured the ups and downs of the textile industry in the U.S. The two merged into Berkshire Hathaway in 1955, but by the 1960s, Berkshire Hathaway found itself in dire straits. Buffett took notice of what looked like an undervalued company with potential.
Buffett, through the Buffett Partnership, became the majority shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway in 1963. Two years later on May 10, Buffett and his firm took over Berkshire Hathaway.
Under Buffett’s leadership, Berkshire Hathaway expanded far beyond its textile origins. In 1967, it entered the insurance industry by acquiring National Indemnity Company, a step that paved the way for Buffett to acquire a stake in Geico in the mid-1970s. Through shrewd investments and company acquisitions, Berkshire Hathaway is now worth $360.1 billion, and ranks as the No. 4 largest public company in the world, reports Forbes.
As a value investor, Buffett tends to invest his money in companies that seem undervalued compared to their fundamental value. Since he was a natural with numbers, value investing appealed to Buffett with its need for detailed financial research. Here’s a look at some of Buffett’s investments that paid off.
(Photo by Patti Gower/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Scandal rocked American Express in 1963, which hurt the company’s image and clouded its success and worth. Buffett, however, saw through the scandal and observed a company with loyal customers and a valuable franchise name. In January 1964, for only $13 million, Buffett gained a 5 percent stake in American Express. Three years later, its stock price reached $180 per share, earning Buffett a profit of $20 million.
Coca-Cola wasn’t doing so well by the fall of 1988 before Buffett stepped onto the scene. Where many Wall Street experts saw a company failing to adapt and on its way out, Buffett saw immense value: Coca-Cola had a bankable franchise name, strong pricing power and didn’t require a lot of capital.
Buffett started buying up Coca-Cola stock in 1988, eventually owning 100,000 shares by 1995. To this day, Berkshire Hathaway holds more than a 9 percent stake in the $190 billion Coca-Cola company, named the No. 4 most valuable brand in the world by Forbes.
REUTERS/Samrang Pring TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Like Coca-Cola, Buffett saw value in the Gillette brand, which was the main seller of razor blades in the world by 1989. That year, Buffett bought $600 million worth of preferred Gillette stock for an 11 percent stake in the company. Buffett’s initial investment turned into a $4.4 billion profit for Berkshire Hathaway when Procter & Gamble bought Gillette in 2005 — earning Buffett a cool $645 million in a single day.
(Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Warren Buffett’s net worth of $66 billion didn’t come without setbacks. Not even the Oracle of Omaha is infallible, and Buffett has endured his fair share of investment mistakes. There is at least one investment mistake that really stands out, mainly because Buffett openly acknowledged how bad it was.
Dexter Shoe Company possessed exactly the features Buffett sought in a company: It had solid management, a valuable brand and competitive edge in the industry. So, in 1993, Buffett acquired Dexter at a cost of $443 million in Berkshire Hathaway stock.
From this promising beginning, Buffett’s investment in Dexter turned south as cheaper overseas labor costs prevented the company from taking off. By 2001, Dexter had gone nowhere, and Buffett pulled the plug, merging it with another Berkshire subsidiary.
Looking back on the investment, Buffett said in a 2007 shareholder letter, “To date, Dexter is the worst deal that I’ve made.” Berkshire shareholders lost as much as $3.5 billion from the deal.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Buffett Gives Back
Having learned from his father the importance of giving back to the community, Buffett regularly donates his wealth to charity. Although Buffett has long been philanthropic, his charitable donations in 2016 stole headlines when he donated $2.86 billion in Berkshire Hathaway stock.
Buffett actually donated the money to five different charities. He donated the vast majority, 15 million shares, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, maintaining a promise he made in 2006 to give 85 percent of Berkshire Hathaway stock to the organization. Buffett then spread the remaining shares among charities his family runs: Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation; Sherwood Foundation; Howard G. Buffett Foundation; and NoVo Foundation.