Warren Buffett admitted to shareholders Saturday that he made a mistake by not buying Google shares years ago, when the company was getting $10 or $11 per advertising click from Berskhire Hathaway consumer insurance company subsidiary Geico.
The Oracle of Omaha also professed ignorance on other big technology stocks, whose rallies he missed because he didn’t quite appreciate their value proposition at first glance.
On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday, Buffett said, “If I was forced to buy [Google-parent Alphabet] or short it, I’d buy it; same way with Amazon. But it’s as little hard when you look at something at ‘X’ and it sells at 10X to buy it.”
“That’s cost people a lot of money at Berkshire,” he said.
Buffett has often said he avoided tech stocks in the past because he didn’t really understand how they were making money and whether they would be able to do so over the long term. This week, Oracle copped to getting it wrong on another tech company: IBM.
For years, Buffett was a true believer in Big Blue, but told CNBC in an interview he had cut his holdings in the stock by a third. “I don’t value IBM the same way that I did six years ago when I started buying,” he said, adding that the company as “run into some pretty tough competitors.”
In the case of Google, however, Buffett said he could have figured out the company had a great advertising business because he was, in effect, contributing to its profits.
After profusely praising Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Buffett said he missed that opportunity as well.
“I was too dumb to realize. I did not think [Bezos] could succeed on the scale he has,” Buffett said, adding that he “really underestimated the brilliance of the execution.” The investor humbly admitted that he and partner Charlie Munger “miss a lot of things, and we’ll keep doing it.”