Warren Buffett has led the Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A)(NYSE: BRK.B) for more than 50 years. Between 1965 (when he took control of Berkshire) and 2022, the shares delivered a whopping 3,787,464% gain.
That translates to a 19.8% compound annual return, which is about twice the return of the benchmark S&P 500 index. It could have turned an investment of just $100 in 1965 into more than $3.7 million today. By comparison, the same investment in the S&P 500 at that time would have grown to just $24,700.
Buffett has a simple, but effective strategy
The simplest investment strategies are often the best. Buffett likes to buy stakes in profitable companies that are delivering steady growth, especially if they have strong management teams. He also favors companies returning money to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks.
He combines those attributes with a long time horizon, which allows the effects of compound growth to build his portfolio’s value.
Buffett certainly doesn’t chase the latest stock market trends, even those as strong as artificial intelligence (AI), which whipped investors into a frenzy throughout 2023. That said, Berkshire does own several AI stocks, even if AI isn’t the reason Buffett and his team originally purchased them.
Investors might be surprised to know the following three AI stocks account for a whopping 49.1% of Berkshire’s $373 billion portfolio of publicly traded stocks.
1. Snowflake: 0.3% of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio
Snowflake (NYSE: SNOW) is a leading provider of cloud computing services to businesses. It only represents 0.3% of Berkshire’s portfolio, but it’s quickly becoming one of the most direct AI plays owned by the investment company.
Snowflake’s Data Cloud was revolutionary when it launched in 2018. It helps large, complex organizations aggregate their data from different cloud providers so it’s all in one place for maximum visibility. From there, companies can use powerful analytics tools to draw valuable insights from the data.
Snowflake recently launched Cortex, a brand new platform featuring AI tools to complement its cloud services. It Document AI service uses a large language model to help businesses extract valuable insights from data in unstructured formats like contracts or invoices. Then there is Universal Search, which allows users to find critical information within Snowflake using natural language instead of programming language, so even non-technical employees can draw value from their organization’s data.
Cortex also includes a generative AI-powered chatbot called Snowflake Copilot, which serves as a virtual assistant. It’s capable of turning text-based prompts into computer code, which can rapidly speed up software development.
Snowflake continues to expand its workforce, with its research and development department growing the fastest. That bodes well for future product releases on the AI front, which will create new opportunities to generate revenue. The company expects to bring in $2.6 billion for its fiscal 2024 (which ends Jan. 31), but it isn’t profitable, nor does it pay a dividend.
Berkshire’s decision to invest in Snowflake stock was likely made by a portfolio manager rather than by Buffett himself. Nonetheless, it’s shaping up to be a great long-term AI play.
2. Amazon: 0.4% of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is one of the most diverse technology companies in the world, with dominant positions in industries like e-commerce, cloud computing, streaming, and digital advertising. Now, it’s quickly becoming one of the most diverse opportunities in AI.
Amazon is focused on delivering the widest possible range of AI products and services to businesses through its cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS). The company has already launched its own data center chips, Trainium and Inferentia, which are designed to compete with Nvidia‘s industry-leading hardware. Plus, AWS offers businesses a growing number of large language models to accelerate the development of AI applications.
In fact, Amazon recently made a $4 billion investment into leading AI start-up Anthropic. As part of the deal, AWS will be Anthropic’s primary cloud provider, and Anthropic will train its future models on Amazon’s chips. Plus, Anthropic will make those models available to AWS customers, which will help differentiate the cloud platform from its competitors.
The cloud might be Amazon’s most lucrative AI opportunity, but it isn’t its only one. The company uses an AI recommendation engine on Amazon.com to show customers products they are most likely to buy. It also uses AI on its Prime streaming service during top broadcasts like the NFL’s Thursday Night Football; it ingests millions of data points from each game to display key statistics that keep viewers informed at the highest possible level.
Berkshire Hathaway purchased Amazon stock in 2019, and its position is relatively small. But Amazon is on track to generate $523 billion in revenue in 2023, which is even more than Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), the largest company in the world. Given Amazon’s growing exposure to AI, Berkshire might wish it owned more of the stock when it looks back in a few years.
3. Apple: 48.4% of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio
Apple is worth over $3 trillion, making it the most valuable company in the world. Berkshire started betting on the company in 2016, and it has since plowed about $35 billion into the stock. Its position is worth $181 billion as of this writing, so it accounts for a whopping 48.4% of Berkshire’s stock portfolio.
That isn’t surprising because Apple has all the attributes Buffett loves. Its chief executive officer, Tim Cook, has led the company to consistent growth and monster profits since he took the job in 2011. Plus, Apple returns enormous amounts of that money to shareholders, including $15 billion in dividends and $77.5 billion in stock buybacks during its fiscal 2023 (which ended Sept. 30) alone.
Consumers and investors know Apple best for hardware like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac personal computers. But the company subtly uses AI throughout all of them. AI powers the autocorrect feature on all Apple keyboards, and the Siri voice assistant. Apple Music also relies on AI to learn what listeners like, so it can feed them more of that content to keep them engaged.
Plus, the Apple-designed A17 Pro chip inside the new iPhone 15 lineup can power those AI workloads on-device faster than ever. As more smartphone features use AI, putting next-generation chips in those devices can reduce their dependence on external data centers for computing power, which leads to a faster, more seamless experience for the user.
Speculation also is swirling that Apple is pumping millions of dollars per day into AI units across the company — units that are building everything from conversational AI models to generative AI applications, capable of crafting text, images, and videos. Reports suggest one such application, Ajax GPT, outperforms OpenAI’s GPT 3.5 model — the original technology that powered ChatGPT.
That suggests Apple is rapidly catching up to some of the leading developers in the AI industry, which could lead to powerful new features for its products in the coming years. Buffett and his team might look like rock stars if Apple becomes a real player in AI, given Berkshire’s gigantic position in the stock.
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John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Anthony Di Pizio has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, Nvidia, and Snowflake. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
49.1% of Warren Buffett’s $373 Billion Portfolio Is Invested in 3 Artificial Intelligence (AI) Stocks was originally published by The Motley Fool