For Warren Buffett, sinking Apple shares a wish come true

Buffett in recent years has lamented missing the boat on buying shares in US technology giants. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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For Warren Buffett, sinking Apple shares a wish come true

  • Apple’s warning on Wednesday about weak iPhone demand in the holiday quarter due to slower sales in China sent its stock down 7.5 percent during after-hours trading
  • Apple’s stock market value has tumbled to below $700 billion from over $1.1 trillion at its peak in October

SILICON VALLEY: Billionaire Warren Buffett has said he would love to see Apple Inc. shares decline in price so he could buy more. He is getting his wish.
Apple’s warning on Wednesday about weak iPhone demand in the holiday quarter due to slower sales in China sent its stock down 7.5 percent during after-hours trading. Class B shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. traded down 2 percent in the same session on Wall Street.
Buffett, the folksy Nebraska investor known more for buying railroads, energy firms and classic American corporate brands than for his acumen picking tech stocks, in recent years has lamented missing the boat on buying shares in US technology giants. He admitted an earlier investment in IBM Corp. was not one of his best.
Yet Buffett has made Apple a centerpiece of his portfolio of other company’s stocks, touting his own use of the Cupertino, California-based company’s products and saying at his annual shareholders’ meeting in Omaha last May, “We would love to see Apple go down in price,” so he could buy more at a bargain.
Buffett sees Apple more as a consumer stock than a tech stock, reflecting the iPhone’s status as a must-have possession for so many people.
Including its after-hours drop on Wednesday, Apple’s stock market value has tumbled to below $700 billion from over $1.1 trillion at its peak in October. Although Apple has fallen behind Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in value, it remains one of Wall Street’s most widely held companies.
Shares of Berkshire itself have held up well even as the broader market sank last quarter. Last year, Berkshire returned 2.8 percent, while the S&P 500 fell 4.4 percent, including reinvested dividends.
But the $3 billion hit to Berkshire’s Apple shares in evening trading on Wednesday could show in future reported earnings. Those figures do not reflect any long-term gains on Berkshire’s investments, and Buffett has encouraged investors to ignore the profit statistic mandated by US accounting practices.


‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

Updated 26 May 2019
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‘Don’t be too optimistic’: Huawei employees fret at US ban

  • This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei
  • Another critical partner, ARM Holdings, said it was complying with the US restrictions

BEIJING: While Huawei’s founder brushes aside a US ban against his company, the telecom giant’s employees have been less sanguine, confessing fears for their future in online chat rooms.
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei declared this week the company has a hoard of microchips and the ability to make its own in order to withstand a potentially crippling US ban on using American components and software in its products.
“If you really want to know what’s going on with us, you can visit our Xinsheng Community,” Ren told Chinese media, alluding to Huawei’s internal forum partially open to viewers outside the company.
But a peek into Xinsheng shows his words have not reassured everyone within the Shenzhen-based company.
“During difficult times, what should we do as individuals?” posted an employee under the handle Xiao Feng on Thursday.
“At home reduce your debts and maintain enough cash,” Xiao Feng wrote.
“Make a plan for your financial assets and don’t be overly optimistic about your remuneration and income.”
This week Google, whose Android operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it would cut ties with Huawei as a result of the ban.
Another critical partner, ARM Holdings — a British designer of semiconductors owned by Japanese group Softbank — said it was complying with the US restrictions.
“On its own Huawei can’t resolve this problem, we need to seek support from government policy,” one unnamed employee wrote last week, in a post that received dozens of likes and replies.
The employee outlined a plan for China to block off its smartphone market from all American components much in the same way Beijing fostered its Internet tech giants behind a “Great Firewall” that keeps out Google, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other foreign companies.
“Our domestic market is big enough, we can use this opportunity to build up domestic suppliers and our ecosystem,” the employee wrote.
For his part, Ren advocated the opposite response in his interview with Chinese media.
“We should not promote populism; populism is detrimental to the country,” he said, noting that his family uses Apple products.
Other employees strategized ways to circumvent the US ban.
One advocated turning to Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao to buy the needed components. Another dangled the prospect of setting up dozens of new companies to make purchases from US suppliers.
Many denounced the US and proposed China ban McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and all-American movies and TV shows.
“First time posting under my real name: we must do our jobs well, advance and retreat with our company,” said an employee named Xu Jin.
The tech ban caps months of US effort to isolate Huawei, whose equipment Washington fears could be used as a Trojan horse by Chinese intelligence services.
Still, last week Trump indicated he was willing to include a fix for Huawei in a trade deal that the two economic giants have struggled to seal and US officials issued a 90-day reprieve on the ban.
In Xinsheng, an employee with the handle Youxin lamented: “I want to advance and retreat alongside the company, but then my boss told me to pack up and go,” followed by two sad-face emoticons.