How Much Apple Stock Does Warren Buffett Own?

At Berkshire Hathaway’s latest shareholder meeting, Warren Buffett commented that Apple was better than any other business his investment company held shares in.

While many investors are aware that Apple is Berkshire’s single largest holding, most don’t know exactly how much Apple stock Warren Buffett’s company owns.

Here’s what you need to know about how much Apple stock Warren Buffett owns and how he built Berkshire’s massive position in the tech giant.

Buffett’s Original Stake in Apple

Berkshire Hathaway began buying Apple in Q1 of 2016. The first purchase consisted of 39.2 million shares at an average price of $24.91. This purchase was followed by a further 21.7 million shares the next quarter, bringing Buffett’s stake to over 60 million shares.

At the time, Apple shares were experiencing a selloff as sales declined for the first time in over a decade. Buffett’s interest in Apple was seen as unusual, as the legendary investor has historically preferred consumer staples to technology companies.

The loss of value in Apple’s shares proved large enough for Buffett to invest in the company, marking the beginning of what would become Berkshire’s largest publicly traded investment.

Building the Apple Position

Although Buffett did not add to Berkshire’s Apple holdings in Q3, his string of purchases would begin again and intensify before the end of 2016. In Q4, Berkshire acquired another 169 million shares. This purchase was followed by an even larger buy of 288 million shares in Q1 of 2017.

In the second and third quarters of 2017, Buffett’s buying activity was once again light. During this time, Buffett acquired another 19 million shares. In Q4, however, Berkshire would purchase a further 125 million shares.

The single heaviest period of buying came in Q1 of 2018 when Buffett bought 297 million shares. By that time, Apple’s shares were trading at an average price of $43.05. While this is much higher than Buffett’s original cost basis in 2016, Apple’s revenue had returned to double-digit growth rates. With high growth potential, a dominant market position and fair share prices, Apple met many of Buffett’s well-known conditions for a good buy.

During Q2 and Q3 the same year, Berkshire bought over 50 million more shares in Apple at somewhat higher prices. By the end of Q3, Buffett had acquired Apple shares for eight consecutive quarters and built a massive position in the technology company.

Did Warren Buffett Sell Apple?

Despite apparently remaining bullish on the long-term prospects of the company, the Oracle of Omaha did sell some of his stock in Apple between 2018 and 2020.

In Q4 of 2018, Berkshire sold 11.6 million shares. This marked the first time Buffett had let any of his Apple stake go, though the volume of shares sold amounted to just over 1 percent of Berkshire’s total holdings.

This sale was followed by the liquidation of about 17.7 million shares in the final two quarters of 2019. It’s important to note that Buffett’s low initial cost basis allowed him to sell at substantial profits. In Q4 of 2019, for instance, Berkshire sold Apple for an average price of $64.33.

This pattern would repeat in 2020, with Berkshire liquidating 93.5 million more shares. By this time, Apple was trading at over $100 per share. By Q4 of 2020, Berkshire was realizing an average of $120.28 on each share of Apple it sold.

Recent Activity

While Berkshire is no longer selling Apple, the company’s acquisitions in recent years have been extremely light. Berkshire did not buy or sell any Apple shares in 2021, and it acquired just over 8 million shares in 2022.

2023, however, may see Buffett return to buying his current favorite company. Last quarter, Berkshire bought a new block of 20.4 million shares at an average price of $147.55. This marks the largest purchase of Apple since Q2 of 2018.

With Berkshire selling many of its other longtime holdings and sitting on a massive cash stockpile, there is at least a good chance that Buffett will choose to put more of the company’s money into Apple this year.

So, Just How Much Apple Does Warren Buffett Own?

Today, Berkshire Hathaway owns 916 million shares of Apple, accounting for over 48 percent of its total equity portfolio. The total value of this holding is roughly $160 billion. Given Apple’s outstanding share count of roughly 15.87 billion, this means that Warren Buffett’s firm owns about 5.8 percent of the company.

It’s interesting to note that Berkshire has already seen enormous growth from its early acquisitions of Apple stock. At the time of this writing, Apple trades at $175.16. This is more than seven times the average price Buffett paid for his first shares in 2016. Shares bought in 2017 and 2018 have a significantly higher cost basis, but Buffett has still seen 3-5 times growth on many of them.

Apple may still have additional room to run, as evidenced by Buffett’s renewed buying in Q1. The company’s earnings are expected to rise nearly 11 percent this year, while its return on equity remains sky-high at over 165 percent. Apple’s earnings are projected to grow at a compounded rate of 11.6 percent over the next five years, potentially supporting even higher share prices.

Though it lacks the higher yields of stocks like Coca-Cola or Bank of America, Apple is also becoming an increasingly lucrative cash-generating asset for Berkshire. Today, each share of the stock pays an annual dividend of $0.96. While this makes for a yield of just 0.55 percent, this dividend will generate nearly $880 million in income for Berkshire this year. Given that the payout ratio is well under 20 percent, Apple’s management will likely be able to continue distributing more cash to shareholders for many years to come.

Overall, Apple has been a massive win for Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway so far. As the stock continues to appreciate and management raises dividends, it’s likely that Berkshire will see steady future returns on its Apple stake.

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