Perspective: Berkshire’s Amazon Stake and Value Investing

According to an article in Yahoo Finance, Berkshire’s recent investment in Amazon “flies in the face of his long-held investing views” and signals “it’s okay to buy high price-to-earnings multiple companies provided they will change the game at some point in the future.”

The article notes that Amazon’s stock, which is trading at a “lofty” price-earnings multiple of 51 (data from Yahoo Finance), is “known for not having steady profits as it invests aggressively to support growth businesses in retail, Alexa and the cloud.” Berkshire’s stake, it adds, seems to be founded on the notion that Amazon stock will continue push higher along with the company’s growing industry dominance.

At this year’s shareholder meeting, the article reports, Buffett said, “the considerations are identical when you buy Amazon versus some bank stock that looks cheap consistently based on book value or earnings.”

While Buffett has been public about his regret in not embracing Amazon earlier on, at the shareholder meeting his partner Charlie Munger said, “I don’t mind having not caught Amazon early, the guy [Jeff Bezos] is kind of a miracle worker. It’s kind of peculiar.”

The article concludes: “Given this otherwise tweaked investment philosophy inside Berkshire, one has to wonder how long Ted [Weschler] or Todd [Combs] wait to pull the trigger on another game-changing tech company with Amazon-like characteristics,” citing Uber as one possibility.