Buffett Sells 13% Apple Stake Anticipating Tax Hikes

Buffett sells 13% of Berkshire's Apple stake, anticipating tax hikes amid a $855 billion U.S. fiscal deficit.

By Barry Stearns

5/15, 15:05 EDT
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Apple Inc., Inc.
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NVIDIA Corporation

Key Takeaway

  • Warren Buffett's sale of Berkshire Hathaway’s Apple stake by 13% anticipates tax increases, a move not necessarily advisable for individual investors.
  • The White House proposes a 25% minimum income tax on wealth over $100 million; major tax changes expected post-2025 could affect investment strategies.
  • Financial experts advise against impulsive selling to avoid taxes, recommending thoughtful planning and strategies like tax-loss harvesting and charitable giving.

Buffett's Proactive Tax Maneuver

Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, has once again made a strategic financial move by selling 13% of Berkshire Hathaway's stake in Apple during the first quarter of 2024. This decision, primarily driven by tax considerations, aims to preemptively address the potential increase in corporate tax rates amidst a growing U.S. fiscal deficit. Buffett, at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting, articulated his expectation of rising tax rates and expressed his willingness to contribute more to the country's financial needs, despite the current corporate tax rate standing at 21%. The U.S. fiscal deficit has expanded to $855 billion in the 2024 fiscal year, with a total of $1.7 trillion in fiscal 2023, signaling the possibility of tax hikes. Buffett's move reflects a strategic approach to financial planning, considering the broader economic and political landscape.

Implications for Berkshire's Portfolio

Despite the reduction in Apple's stake, which has been one of Berkshire Hathaway's most profitable investments, the conglomerate's equity portfolio remains heavily invested in the tech giant. Since initiating the investment in 2016, Berkshire had acquired a 5% ownership by mid-2018, with the stake now constituting 40% of its entire equity portfolio. This investment has yielded over $100 billion in gains for Berkshire, showcasing Buffett's investment prowess. With Berkshire's cash reserves potentially reaching $200 billion by June 2024, up from a record $189 billion in the first quarter, there is speculation about further adjustments to the Apple stake and the overall investment strategy of Berkshire Hathaway.

Market Reactions and Analyst Perspectives

The financial community closely watches Buffett's investment decisions due to his significant influence and proven track record in the market. Analysts have maintained strong ratings for Apple, with Bank of America reiterating a buy rating, emphasizing the company's momentum in GenAI and its services sector. This sentiment is echoed in the broader technology sector, with companies like Nvidia and Amazon also receiving positive outlooks from financial institutions. Buffett's strategic decision-making and the optimistic analyst sentiment highlight a cautious yet hopeful perspective on the market's future direction, particularly within the technology sector.

Street Views

  • Tim Steffen, Baird (Neutral on tax strategy and investment decisions):

    "The taxes shouldn’t be the only factor in determining your investment strategy. If you have an investment you really like, continue to hold it. If it pays a good dividend, don’t let a tax increase be the sole reason to sell something."

  • Jerrod Pearce, Creative Planning (Neutral on portfolio management in higher tax environments):

    "In a higher tax environment, 'tax loss harvesting will become more important, and doing it in a performance-neutral way.'"

Management Quotes

  • Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway:

    "And if I’m doing it at 21% this year, and we’re doing it a little higher percentage later on, I don’t think you’ll actually mind the fact that we sold a little Apple this year."