Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway portfolio provides a mix of legacy and current investments. Consequently, the portfolio consists of stocks that make sense as a hold but are less attractive to new buyers.

Fortunately, some companies in Buffett's portfolio continue to hold potential for investor returns. Investors wanting meaningful growth should consider companies such as Amazon (AMZN -0.17%), Apple (AAPL -0.66%), and Verizon (VZ 0.67%).

Warren Buffett at a public event.

Image source: The Motley Fool

Amazon

Buffett's 533,000 shares make up a modest investment, at least by Buffett's standards. Still, Buffett and his team have good reason to remain bullish on the tech giant despite its $1.7 trillion market cap.

Post-lockdown conditions in the United States and other countries have meant either less activity or slower growth for many tech giants. For the fourth quarter of 2021, Amazon forecasts net sales growth of between 4% and 12% versus Q4 2020. This is a dramatic slowdown from the first three quarters of 2021 when net sales increased 28% compared with the same period in 2020.

Nonetheless, a resurgence in COVID-19 cases amid the omicron variant may bring back some shoppers. Moreover, the net sales of Amazon Web Services (AWS) surged 36% in the first nine months of 2021 compared with the same time frame last year.

AWS made up just over $44 billion of the company's $332 billion in net sales, about 13%. However, in Q3, it claimed operating margins of 30%, well above the 1% margin in North America and the -3% internationally. This allowed AWS to make up more than $13 billion of the company's $21 billion in operating income, or 62%.

Admittedly, the 7% gain in Amazon stock over the last year drastically underperformed the S&P 500. Still, the P/E ratio of about 67 has taken Amazon's valuation to near multi-year lows. As long as profitability in AWS remains strong, it should carry Buffett and other Amazon investors through the mild uncertainty in Amazon's e-commerce business.

Apple

Buffett's almost 900 million shares of Apple mean that the company makes up nearly half of Buffett's portfolio. Still, neither that nor a near-$3 trillion market cap stopped Apple from beating the market. Even with its massive size, its stock has risen by 37% over the last 12 months as all of its products and services benefited from double-digit growth. Moreover, despite a chip shortage and a return to more offline activities, Apple stands a good chance of remaining a screaming buy for 2022.

Leading that increase is Apple's best-selling product, the iPhone. It accounted for $192 billion, just over half of its sales in fiscal 2021. The release of the iPhone 13 line of phones and an ongoing 5G upgrade cycle helped drive a 39% increase in iPhone revenue compared with 2020.

The Mac, iPad, wearables, and services contributed heavily to growth. Overall, revenue of $366 billion in 2021 increased 33% compared with the 2020 fiscal year. Neither the cost of sales nor the operating expenses rose as fast as revenue. This helped Apple earn a profit of $95 billion in fiscal 2021, a 65% surge from year-ago levels.

While those numbers look promising, new investors likely want to know if that pace can continue into 2022. Although the company offered a limited outlook, it believes gross margins will come in between 41.5% and 42.5%, levels consistent with the 41.8% gross margin reported in the first nine months of 2021. As long as iPhone sales and an increasing array of products and services drive revenue, Buffett's largest investment should continue to boost Berkshire.

Verizon

In recent months, Verizon has turned into one of Buffett's more underappreciated plays. The 159-million-share investment, just over 2% of the Berkshire portfolio, has not served Buffett well at first glance. A 10% drop in the stock over the last year has resulted in a decline in its P/E ratio to about 10. This makes it far cheaper than T-Mobile, a smaller Buffett holding, at 45 times earnings.

Still, such a low multiple makes Verizon the traditional value stock Buffett has often sought. Also, Verizon provides the dividend growth characteristic of many other stocks Warren Buffett owns. It has hiked the dividend annually since 2004. Now, at $2.56 per share, new investors earn a 5% cash return on the payout.

Verizon also generated over $17 billion in free cash flow in the first nine months of 2021. This easily funded the $8 billion in dividend costs in that time, showing the dividend growth can likely continue. 

Moreover, investors have a good reason to believe this growth could rise. Thanks to 5G, Verizon can offer network-as-a-service (NaaS). This is a data subscription service that could power the latest innovations in tech, such as self-driving cars and the infrastructure for the metaverse.

Additionally, Verizon has long won the most awards for network quality from J.D. Power for 27 consecutive years. And its massive $53 billion investment in C-band spectrum should give the company the wireless real estate needed to stay ahead on service quality.

Between the rising dividend growth and the low valuation, this Buffett stock could deliver significant returns as investors come to realize Verizon's critical role in the 5G industry.