Warren Buffett, the renowned investor and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, celebrated his 93rd birthday on Aug. 30. Throughout his lengthy career, he has always adhered to a value investing strategy, which bears some resemblance to the “buy and hold” approach often associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC).
However, Buffett’s focus is on assets with strong earnings potential and investing in companies and sectors where he and his team possess a deep understanding of the associated risks, competition, and advantages. This strategy has allowed him and Berkshire Hathaway to achieve significant success over the years.
But the question arises: Can Buffett’s laser-eyed investing strategy outperform Bitcoin in the long run? Investors should also wonder why one of the greatest stock pickers of all time currently holds cash and short-term bonds as the second-largest position in his portfolio.
An interesting example of Buffett’s approach is Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holding, Apple (AAPL) shares. Berkshire initially acquired these shares in early 2016 when Apple was already valued at over $500 billion, so the firm was far from being an early investor. Despite the stock’s significant rally of over 500% since its initial purchase, Berkshire Hathaway continued to add to its AAPL investment in 2022. This demonstrates Buffett’s commitment to long-term investment strategies, regardless of recent price movements.
Buffett has long downplayed nonproductive commodities, such as gold, as a store of value. In a February 2012 shareholder letter, Berkshire Hathaway expressed concerns about the devaluation of paper currency and discussed the limitations of gold. The company argued that gold lacks practical utility and that its price is largely driven by fear-based sentiment, which leads to only temporary price increases. In contrast, investments in productive companies generate substantial dividends and returns.
However, Buffett’s criticism of nonproductive commodities has not held up when it comes to Bitcoin. Despite his skepticism, Bitcoin’s price has surged, gaining 683% in the 12 months following Buffett’s comments. Over a four-year period, Bitcoin’s gains amounted to a staggering 9,014%.
To compare the performance of Berkshire Hathaway’s stock holdings to Bitcoin, an analysis used a factor of three to simulate a leveraged position for the stock. The analysis found that an individual who had invested $1,000 in Bitcoin and initiated a leveraged long position in Berkshire Hathaway shares in early 2019 would have observed a return of $7,020 in BTC compared to $5,623 in Buffett’s holding company. Similarly, for an investment starting in 2017, the return would have been $3,798 in BTC versus $1,998 using the leveraged long strategy in Berkshire Hathaway’s shares.
The apparent inconsistency in Buffett’s strategy, particularly Berkshire Hathaway’s record-high cash position of $147 billion, is raising questions among investors. It suggests that even the most accomplished stock market investors may have reservations about deploying their cash. This situation also prompts speculation about whether the significant amount of funds currently on the sidelines, including the $5.6 trillion in money market funds, might seek alternative forms of protection if inflation makes a resurgence.
Despite Bitcoin’s volatility and its yet-to-be-tested response to a global economic recession, its consistent outperformance compared to Berkshire Hathaway shares suggests that investors are increasingly viewing it as a viable alternative store of value. Berkshire Hathaway’s substantial cash position serves as a potential cautionary note for those skeptical about Bitcoin. With Bitcoin’s total market capitalization currently standing at $500 billion, it signals significant untapped potential for the cryptocurrency to play a larger role in the financial landscape.
In conclusion, Warren Buffett’s investing strategy has been highly successful over the years. However, the rise of Bitcoin and its consistent outperformance compared to traditional investments highlights the growing appeal of cryptocurrencies as an alternative store of value. Berkshire Hathaway’s substantial cash position raises questions about the effectiveness of traditional investment strategies in the face of emerging digital assets like Bitcoin. As the financial landscape continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how investors navigate the opportunities and challenges presented by cryptocurrencies.