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Another big investor bought up about $1 billion in Apple shares

TechCrunch TechCrunch 16/05/2016 Matthew Lynley

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company today disclosed in a regulatory filing that it owns around 9.81 million shares of Apple — worth around $1.07 billion at the end of the quarter — as Apple shares have taken a huge dive in the past year.

Apple shares have been their lowest that they have been in the past year in recent weeks, especially so following a huge second-quarter miss that shaved off $40 billion off the company’s market capitalization. The downward spiral for Apple has been so bad that, for a brief moment last week, Alphabet once again passed the company in market value. (The two are within about $5 billion and are basically duking it out for the top spot right now.)

What this basically signals for a lot of the finance community is that Apple is cheap right now. With the iPhone maker showing slowing growth, expectations have to be reset as to what the company should be worth, and big swings like this aren’t all that uncommon as huge players are suddenly more attractive targets for investors. This could signal hope for a rebound for the company, which now has to show Wall Street that it can re-ignite its growth engine by either selling more iPhones or finding new ways to make money.

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Apple. In April 2013, activist investor Carl Icahn took aim at the iPhone maker, also buying up a $1 billion stake in the hopes he could get Cook’s attention and shift the company’s capital returns strategy. At Apple’s current price, the stake is worth around $900 million.

Still, this doesn’t mean that Buffett, or Berkshire Hathaway, will start agitating for change any time soon. A $1 billion stake is a blip on Apple’s radar, and activist investors (which it’s not clear Buffett will be) are going to have to be very aggressive if they’re going to get Cook and his team to change his mind. Even Icahn tried to bully Apple into increasing its capital return program — and he exited the company in the past several weeks.

But, still, as a result of the purchase it looks like Apple shares are on the rise (they’re up about 2% in pre-market trading, which for a company the size of Apple is quite a bit). Berkshire Hathaway was known for avoiding technology stocks for the most part. That’s likely a signal of confidence that a firm could have bought up such a large holding in the company. The more interesting question is whether Buffett has continued to buy up shares, as these regulatory filings only consists of activity through the end of the quarter.

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