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Buffett tells CNBC Berkshire bought 120 million Apple shares in 2017

By Sam Forgione
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), told CNBC on Monday that his conglomerate had purchased about 120 million shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) in 2017 and that U.S. stocks were not in “bubble territory.”

“Apple strikes me as having quite a sticky product,” Buffett said. He said Berkshire’s Apple stake, at 133 million shares, was worth about $17 billion and amounted to Berkshire’s second-biggest holding.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook had done a “terrific job,” Buffett said, but added he had not bought shares since the company’s earnings report.

Buffett, who told the cable television network that Berkshire had spent about $20 billion on stocks since just before the Nov. 8 U.S. election, also said the U.S. stock market was cheap with interest rates at current levels.

The billionaire investor said it was extremely difficult to attempt to find a floor in stock prices and that he did not know what would happen in the near term in the equity market. He said U.S. shares could conceivably “go down 20 percent tomorrow.”

Buffett said Berkshire’s positions in airlines remained unchanged. He said pricing shares of airlines has historically been a “very tough game” and that he had never met the chief executives of any of the four airlines in which Berkshire holds stakes.

Buffett, who was a vocal supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said he would judge U.S. President Donald Trump based on how safe the country is in four years. He said he would also judge the Republican president according to how the U.S. economy performs overall and how wide participation in a better economy extends.

Despite his disagreement with some of Trump’s policies, Buffett said the U.S. economy would be better off in four years under any president. Buffett said that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made “a lot of sense.”

On Kraft Heinz’s (KHC.O) snubbed bid for Unilever (ULVR.L), Buffett said it was never intended to be a hostile offer and that there was not a “backup deal” for the company. Berkshire is a key investor in Kraft Heinz.

Asked about Berkshire’s $86 billion cash pile, he said the conglomerate was “always looking” for acquisitions but that there was “nothing close.”

(Reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Reuters