Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Warren Buffett: If he were Tim Cook, he'd be buying Apple

March 4, 2013: 8:35 AM ET

"If you could buy dollar bills for 80 cents, it's a very good thing to do."

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 8.29.03 AMFORTUNE -- In a three-hour appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box Monday morning,  Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKA) Warren Buffett addressed two burning issues in the minds of Apple (AAPL) investors: Apple's depressed stock price and what to do with the $137 billion in cash burning a hole in David Einhorn's pocket.

On the pressure to increase the dividend:

"I don't own any Apple and I haven't, though I did talk with Steve Jobs a few years ago about what they might do with the cash. The best thing you can do with a business is run it well, and the shares will respond."

On David Einhorn's push to get Apple to issue preferred shares:

"I would ignore him. I would run the business in such a manner as to create the most value over the next five to 10 years. You can't run a business to push the stock price up on a daily basis. Berkshire has gone down 50% four times in its history. When that happens, if you've got money you buy it. You just keep working on building the value.

"I heard from people each time [Berkshire shares went down], saying why don't you do this or that. Pay a dividend. I think Apple's done a good job of building value. They may have too much cash. Now one reason they have so much cash is two thirds of it has not yet been taxed.

"When Steve called me, I said, Is your stock cheap? He said, yes. I said, Do you have more cash than you need? He said, a little. [laughs] I said, then buy back your stock. He didn't. Now, when our stock went from $90,000 to $40,000 to $45,000, I wrote about, we wanted to buy the stock. We didn't quite manage to.

"But if you could buy dollar bills for 80 cents, it's a very good thing to do."

Quotes edited from Barrons' transcription.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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