The famous Oracle of Omaha did not have a good answer early on Monday when asked about e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Admittedly Warren Buffett missed the boat on this one, but that doesn’t mean he’s not considering hopping on in the future, at least according to him.
Retailing has historically not interested Buffett. Instead Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola and American Express have been a key part of his portfolio. Accordingly, he has chalked this up to retail being a tough industry to understand.
Analysts who look closely at the retail sector have to focus on the current fashion trends and season, also potentially what is coming up on the horizon. Couple this with an e-commerce giant that sells practically anything online, and that’s where Buffett finds it hard to figure out.
Buffett went as far to say in a CNBC interview:
Retailing is tough for me to figure out because the internet has swept in and offered shoppers variety and low prices at their finger tips.
The internet is a serious challenge, and Buffett spoke more about Amazon than he did Wal-Mart or anything else in retail. Buffett praised Amazon for wanting to get into almost everything. He praised Bezos as being a terrific business person. Still, Buffett confessed on CNBC about why he did not or does not own shares of Amazon:
I don’t have a good answer on why I didn’t buy it long ago. … Obviously, I should have bought it long ago. I didn’t understand the power of the model. And the price (of Amazon’s stock) always seemed to reflect the power of the model at that time. It’s one I missed big time.
What separates Buffett from us mere mortals is the fact that he has won so much over such a long period, and continued to win with his investments, sticking with his buy-and-hold strategy. Also because Buffett has held some of these investments so long, his cost basis is practically nothing for some of the positions in the portfolio.
Amazon first came public in 1997 with an IPO price of $18 and since then the stock has split three separate times (June 1998, January 1999 and September 1999), resulting in a 12-to-one split from the original stock issuance. When Buffett says he “missed big time,” he means it. If you invested just $1,000 at the IPO and held until the most recent close, the stake would be valued up to $565,760.
Shares of Amazon most recently closed at $848.64, with a consensus analyst price target of $928.93 and a 52-week trading range of $538.58 to $860.86.