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巴菲特:没有投资谷歌是伯克希尔·哈撒韦最大的失误

Jen Wieczner 2017年05月09日

巴菲特解释了为什么在与科技公司划清界限这么多年后决定投资苹果。

在上周六伯克希尔·哈撒韦公司(Berkshire Hathaway)的年度会议上,首席执行官沃伦·巴菲特惊人地坦承了自己的错误。这位奥马哈的先知近日一改长期以来对硅谷公司的厌恶,在苹果(Apple)股票上押下重注,令投资者大呼意外。如今他承认,自己本应抓住机会买下更多科技公司的股份。

苹果是巴菲特过去一年里最具成效的投资项目,他对这家iPhone制造商增加持股后,光这一项就让伯克希尔公司在2017年的证券投资收益提高了20亿美元。如今,他后悔自己没有在十几年前谷歌(Google)上市不久时利用机会购入股票。

这家如今改名Alphabet的科技公司的创始人,在当初首次公开募股后不久甚至还带着投资说明书来找过巴菲特。但这位传奇股神拒绝了他们。巴菲特在伯克希尔·哈撒韦的会议上表示。“我认识他们,我也有很多机会问他们问题,进行自我教育。但是我搞砸了。”

巴菲特的商业伙伴、伯克希尔·哈撒韦的副董事长查理·芒格对此甚至更加后悔。他在会议上表示:“如果你让我回顾过去,看看在科技领域最糟糕的决定是哪一个,那就是它了。”

芒格说:“我认为我们当时足够聪明可以发现谷歌——那些广告在早期的效益远超其他业务——所以我会说我们在那里失败了。我们足够聪明,可以去做,却没有做。”

实际上,伯克希尔的保险子公司Geico就是谷歌的早期客户,他们在搜索引擎上以“每次点击10到11美元”的价格购买广告,所以他们是这项业务增长的早期见证者。巴菲特补充道:“如果你要给一个人10到11美元,他却只需要做一点不需要成本的事情,这就是个好生意。你之前几乎从来没有见过类似的生意。”

巴菲特解释了为什么在与科技公司划清界限这么多年后决定投资苹果。他表示自己认为苹果更多是一家消费品公司,而不是一家科技公司(与IBM正好相反,巴菲特本周宣布准备抛售IBM股票)。不过巴菲特也指出,市场的根本变化让他对科技公司有了改观,他观察到五家市值最高的美国科技公司如今的价值总和超过了2.5万亿美元。

这五家公司按市值高低顺序,分别是苹果、Alphabet、微软(Microsoft)、亚马逊(Amazon)和Facebook。巴菲特说:“如果你拥有了这五家公司,实际上你可以不需要任何股本收益就能经营它们。你不用任何钱就能经营这五家加起来超过2.5万亿美元市值的公司。”

他将“资金要求不高”的互联网和云计算公司与职业生涯早期投资的资金密集型工业和钢铁公司进行了对比,补充道:“这与过去的投资领域不太一样。不过如果你很擅长,这个领域要好得多。”

考虑到他对那些公司的观点往往令人叹服,一名股东在年度会议的问答环节问巴菲特:为什么伯克希尔从来没有投资亚马逊。巴菲特回答道:“我太麻木了,没有意识到正在发生什么”,他说他“甚至从未考虑”购买亚马逊的股票,尽管他很尊重这家电子商务公司的创始人杰夫·贝佐斯。巴菲特表示:“我很欣赏杰夫,但我没想到他居然取得了这样的成功,”他指的是亚马逊几年前成功进军云服务市场,赢取了巨大利润。“我确实低估了他们的执行才能。”

不过对于伯克希尔的高管来说,他们真正错过的只有Alphabet。芒格说:“错过亚马逊一点也不让我后悔。其他的都很简单,我认为我们只是搞砸了一点。”巴菲特拒绝评论那些搞砸的事情,芒格又澄清道:“我的意思是谷歌。”

芒格暗示道,未来伯克希尔很可能会在科技领域加大筹码。他对巴菲特说:“我认为你购买苹果的股票是个很好的信号。它表明你要么疯了,要么在吸取教训。我更喜欢后面那种解释。”(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

At the Berkshire Hathawayannual meeting Saturday, CEO Warren Buffett made a startling admission. After surprising investors recently with his giant bet on Apple stock, the Oracle of Omaha—long averse to Silicon Valley companies—says he now wishes he'd bought more technology stocks when he had the chance.

Apple (aapl) has been Buffett's greatest hit over the past year, boosting Berkshire's portfolio by about $2 billion in 2017 alone after the investor loaded up on more of the iPhone maker's stock. Now, Buffett is kicking himself for not taking advantage of the opportunity to buy stock in Google(googl) shortly after it went public more than a dozen years ago.

The founders of the company now called Alphabet even came to see Buffett shortly after the tech company's IPO with an investment prospectus, but the legendary stock-picker passed. "I knew the guys," Buffett said at the Berkshire Hathaway (brk.a) meeting. "And so I had plenty of ways to ask questions or anything of the sort and educate myself, but I blew it."

Buffett's business partner and Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger regrets that decision even more. "If you asked me in retrospect what was our worst mistake in the tech field," that was it, Munger said at the meeting.

"I think we were smart enough to figure out Google—those ads worked so much better in the early days than anything else—so I would say that we failed you there," Munger said. "We were smart enough to do it, and we didn’t do it."

In fact, Berkshire's insurance subsidiary Geico was an early customer of Google, buying ads on the search engine for "$10 to $11 a click," so the investors had a front row seat seat to the business' growth, Buffett said. "Any time you're paying somebody $10 or $11 when somebody just punches a little thing where you’ve got no cost at all, that’s a good business," he added. "You’ve almost never seen a business like it."

Explaining his decision to invest in Apple after so many years of steering clear of the tech industry, Buffett said he sees the company as less of a technology company than a consumer products company (as opposed to IBM(ibm), whose stock the investor announced that he is selling this week). But Buffett also noted a fundamental change in the market that has made him see tech differently, observing that the five most valuable American companies are now worth a whopping more than $2.5 trillion combined.

Those five companies, in order of market value, are Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft(msft), Amazon(amzn) and Facebook (fb). "And if you take those five companies, essentially you could run them with no equity capital at all," Buffett said. "You literally don’t need any money to run the five companies that are collectively worth more than $2.5 trillion."

"That is a different world than what existed in the past," he added, comparing the "capital-light" nature of Internet and cloud computing companies to the capital-intensive industrial and steel businesses that he invested in earlier in his career. "But this is so much better if you happen to be good at it."

Given his views on the compelling case for those companies, a shareholder asked Buffett during the annual meeting's Q&A why Berkshire had never invested in Amazon. "I was too dumb to realize what was going to happen," Buffett responded, saying he "never even considered" buying Amazon stock, despite his great respect for the e-commerce company's founder, Jeff Bezos. "I admired Jeff but I did not think he’d succeed on the scale that he has," Buffett said, noting that Amazon's lucrative foray into the cloud services business never occurred to him a few years ago. "I really underestimated the brilliance of the execution."

But for Berkshire's executives, the one that got away, so to speak, is really Alphabet. "I don’t feel any regret about missing out on the achievements of Amazon," Munger said. "Other things were easy, and I think we screwed up a little." When Buffett declined to comment on those screw-ups, Munger clarified: "I meant Google."

In the future, though, Berkshire is likely to make more bets on tech, Munger hinted. "I think it’s a very good sign that you bought the Apple stock," Munger told Buffett. "It shows either one of two things: Either you’ve gone crazy or you're learning. I prefer the learning explanation."

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