Buffet’s Berkshire bets on tech again with TSMC investment

TSMC berkshire
FILE PHOTO: The logo of TSMC at its headquarters, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo

(Reuters) – Berkshire Hathaway said it bought more than $4.1 billion of stock in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), a rare significant foray into the technology sector by billionaire Warren Buffett’s conglomerate.

The news sent shares in TSMC up more than 6% in Taiwan on Tuesday, as it boosted investor sentiment for the world’s largest contract chipmaker, which saw its shares hit a two-year low last month due to a sharp slowdown in global chip demand.

In a Monday regulatory filing describing its US-listed equity investments as of Sept. 30, Berkshire said it owned about 60.1 million American depositary shares of TSMC.

Berkshire also disclosed new stakes of $297 million in building materials company Louisiana-Pacific Corp and $13 million in Jefferies Financial Group Inc. It exited an investment in Store Capital Corp, a real estate company that agreed in September to be taken private.

The filing did not specify whether Buffett or his portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler made specific purchases and sales. Investors often try to piggy back on what Berkshire buys. Larger investments are normally Buffett’s.

Competitive advantages

While Berkshire does not normally make big technology bets, it often prefers companies it perceives to have competitive advantages, often through their size.

TSMC, which makes chips for the likes of Apple, Qulacomm and Nvidia, posted an 80% jump in quarterly profit last month, but struck a more cautious note than usual on upcoming demand.

“I suspect Berkshire has a belief that the world cannot do without the products manufactured by Taiwan Semi,” said Tom Russo, a partner at Gardner, Russo & Quinn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which owns Berkshire shares.

“Only a small number of companies that can amass the capital to deliver semiconductors, which are increasingly central to people’s lives,” he added.

Berkshire has had mixed success in technology.

Its more than six-year wager during the last decade in IBM did not pan out, but Berkshire is sitting on huge unrealized gains on its $126.5 billion stake in Apple, which Buffett views more as a consumer products company.

Apple is by far the largest investment in Berkshire’s $306.2 billion equity portfolio.

Other Berkshire moves

Berkshire disclosed the TSMC stake about 2-1/2 months after it began reducing a decade-old, multi-billion dollar stake in BYD Co, China’s largest electric car company.

In the third quarter, Berkshire added to its stakes in Chevron Corp, Occidental Petroleum Corp, Celanese Corp, Paramount Global and RH.

It also sold shares of Activision Blizzard Inc, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, General Motors Co, Kroger Co and US Bancorp.

Buffett, 92, has run Berkshire since 1965. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company also owns dozens of businesses such as the BNSF railroad, the Geico auto insurer, several energy and industrial companies, Fruit of the Loom and Dairy Queen.

(By Jonathan Stempel; Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Bradley Perrett)

Related article: TSMC cashes in big-time on chip shortage with record Q421 profit

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