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Warren Buffett Loves Apple's Share Repurchases

By Daniel Sparks – May 6, 2019 at 7:16PM

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The Oracle of Omaha is "wildly in favor" of Apple's aggressive share repurchase program.

Though Apple's (AAPL -1.26%) better-than-expected fiscal second-quarter revenue, earnings per share, and guidance stole the show when the tech giant reported its quarterly results on April 30, the company's announcement on the same day of an additional $75 billion authorized for share repurchases shouldn't be overlooked, either.

Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.B 2.38%) (BRK.A 2.29%) Warren Buffett certainly isn't ignoring the news. In an interview with CNBC on Monday, the Oracle of Omaha explained why he's happy Apple is repurchasing droves of shares.

Warren Buffett at Berkshire's annual shareholder meeting

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Buffett on Apple's share repurchases: "I love it"

Buffett kicked off a discussion of Apple's share repurchases when CNBC's Becky Quick told the Berkshire chairman and CEO that Apple shares were down several percentage points on Monday morning. "Well that's good," Buffett responded.

He went on to explain that lower prices are better for the company's buybacks.

Further, Buffett advocated for Apple's repurchases, saying that "when they repurchase shares, our interest goes up and we don't lay out a dime. I love it."

Asked specifically about whether Buffett supports Apple's just-announced $75 billion share repurchase authorization, he said he's "wildly in favor of it."

The Berkshire CEO clarified that not all repurchases are smart. They "can be the dumbest thing in the world or the smartest thing in the world," he said. He went on to explain that their value to shareholders depends on the price at which companies are buying back shares. "They're dumb and one price and they're smart at another price." Buffett's approval of Apple's repurchase program, therefore, suggests he believes Apple shares are a good deal at this level.

Making Apple's buybacks even more valuable, the company has been opportunistic about its share repurchases in the past, loading up on shares more aggressively when the stock falls.

Berkshire, of course, has a vested interest in the intrinsic value of Apple stock. The tech giant is Berkshire's largest equity holding. The conglomerate's stake in Apple is currently valued at a whopping $52 billion. 

A good time to repurchase shares

Though Apple stock is up 13% over the past 12 months, it's still arguably an ideal time for the tech giant to be repurchasing shares.

First of all, the stock still seems to be trading at a reasonable price. Apple's price-to-earnings ratio is just 17.5 -- well below the average price-to-earnings ratio of 23.8 for stocks in the S&P 500. 

In addition, it's unlikely Apple can find a more shareholder-friendly way to deploy its $113 billion in net cash. Sure, some of this cash can be used for acquisitions but Apple has a long history of making small but frequent acquisitions instead of headline-grabbing acquisitions of large-cap companies. Given how well this approach has worked for the company, there's no reason for Apple to start taking risks on major acquisitions now. And even if Apple did find a large company to buy, the purchase price is unlikely to put a significant dent in its $113 billion war chest -- especially since the company is generating about $60 billion in free cash flow every 12 months.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Apple Inc. Stock Quote
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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
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