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Buffett buys 5.5 percent stake in IBM

Known for aversion to tech stocks, billionaire investor Warren Buffett says his company has paid US$10.7 billion to own 5.5 percent of Big Blue's shares, which the tech vendor treats with "reverence".
Written by Jamie Yap, Journalist on

Widely known to avoid technology stocks, billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett reveals his company has paid US$10.7 billion to purchase some 64 million shares, or 5.5 percent of IBM. He points to Big Blue's strong roadmap and adds that it manages its stock with "reverence".

"They have laid out a roadmap and followed it extremely well. I probably read the annual report of IBM every year for [the past] 50 years," Buffett said during a televised CNBC interview on Monday. "They are thinking about the shareholders. They treat their stock with reverence, which I find is unusual among big companies," he added.

While Buffett started buying IBM shares around March, most of the 64 million stocks were acquired by Berkshire during the third quarter of this year, said Reuters. The news wire added that Berkshire did not cross reporting thresholds on the investment until the third quarter, which let the billionaire investor keep the stake secret until Monday.

According to Reuters, even IBM was unaware about the investment and its potentially largest shareholder until he finally revealed the news on television. "I don't know of any large company that really has been as specific on what they intend to do and how they intend to do it as IBM," he said before making the announcement.

Buffett's IBM stake is notable, considering that the technology sector had been one area the billionaire investor famously and openly shunned on grounds he did not understand it, by his own admission.

According to the CNBC interview, Buffett himself admitted he should have paid more attention to IBM five years ago.

Technology analysts, nonetheless, argued he still got a "good deal". Collins Stewart analyst Louis Miscioscia told Reuters: "Maybe he could have gotten a better price...but if you look at Warren Buffett's investment policy, I would assume this is a long-term investment. This is not your father's IBM; the management has done a good job of cost control, returning cash to shareholders."

Michael Yoshikami, chief executive of YCMNET Advisers which is a Berkshire shareholder, added that the investment was a global play for its services businesses and Buffett "sees international as more important [than the technology]."

IBM, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, will see its first female chief executive officer in January 2012 when global sales chief Virginia Rometty takes over current CEO Sam Palmisano at the helm.

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