Let’s say you’re one of the foremost investment geniuses of the universe, hailed as the most prominent and successful value investor in the world. Your last two gigantic bets have been on Goldman Sachs getting bailed out by our government and a deal with Bank of America you dreamed up in your bathtub that looks more like a curbside mugging by the Six Flags mascot than it does a deal with two sides to it. So what do you get into now? Ah, yes: those computer machines of the future! And has he got just the company to do it with: IBM!
If the company whose name your parents may use as shorthand for “computer that isn’t a Mac” seems like a surprising investment—considering their consumer computing solutions haven’t been a massive consumer hit in a long time now—well, it’s totally fair, because it is a surprising investment. So was the casual way in which Warren Buffett dropped the news this morning on CNBC that he is now IBM’s largest single shareholder:
So why—despite not even having talked to the company or their CEO about his purchase—is Warren Buffett putting money into a tech name currently most widely known for their ability to produce machines that beat people at Jeopardy?
Oracle of Omaha, shower us with your wisdom:
He thinks IBM has done an “incredible job” executing its long-term strategy, has an excellent “road map” for the future, and “respects” its shareholders by being honest with them and doing big stock buybacks. “They’ve done all kinds of things right.” Buffett typically shies away from technology stocks because he often doesn’t “understand” what they do, but told us he’d been “hit between the eyes” by how the company finds and keeps clients. “It’s a company that helps IT departments do their job better. It is a big deal for a big company to change auditors, change law firms,” or change IT support. “There is a lot of continuity to it.”
That said, he also noted that he’d never buy Microsoft because of his friendship with Bill Gates. Worth noting: Where Warren Buffett’s money goes, success—usually for both parties—follows in suit. For example, Buffett dropped the news a few hours before the New York Stock exchange—on which IBM is publicly traded—this morning. It opened, of course, more than two dollars higher than it had closed on Friday, an usual spike for a company like IBM, but not unusual for this kind of news:
Of course, it’s not like Buffett knows anything about IBM than the rest of world doesn’t—again, he’s the company’s largest shareholder, can have the entire universe on speed-dial, and yet, has yet to talk to their CEO about his investment—and Buffett is a value investor, so somewhere, somehow, he’s traced a something inside that’s given him the desire to go long on the company despite it being mostly known as the Jeopardy robot maker. It probably has something to do with this:
That’s the last ten-years of IBM’s stock price, and if that doesn’t look like the impressive growth of say, Apple or Google, consider this: IBM’s survived for a long, long time now. Their success isn’t given a unilateral sheen to it that becomes shaky because the person behind said sheen just died (ahem, Steve Jobs). They’ve persisted through the most difficult of times and still managed to hang on. Their assets have been managed well, and they remain competitive in….whatever it is they make these days besides Jeopardy robots. The point is: Buffett may barely be able to work a cell phone, but whatever the guy sees in IBM, we should all probably start paying more attention to as well. Either he’s going senile or they’ve finally created a hoverboard.
Whatever the case, they’re now worth watching a little more, at least to this blog.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.