Commentary: With Investment in India’s Paytm, Berkshire Moving Beyond Technology Aversion

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Insurance, manufacturing, transportation, retail, these are all things Berkshire Hathaway are known for but not technology.

Warren Buffett’s famed aversion to technology has been fading with Berkshire’s $46.6 billion stake in Apple, and now comes word that the company has taken a 3-4% stake in One97 Communications Ltd, the parent of Indian digital payments company Paytm.

In just eight years, Paytm has become India’s leading digital payments platform in country where digital payments are projected to grow five-fold by 2023.

The investment was actually made by Berkshire portfolio manager Todd Combs, and the main thing it shows is that the next generation of Berkshire’s investment management may not stick to a strictly value investing strategy.

“I have been impressed by Paytm and am excited about being a part of its growth story, as it looks to transform payments and financial services in India,” Combs said.

In addition to the investment, Combs will also join the eight-member board of the company, which includes Alibaba co-founder and executive chairman Joseph Tsai, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas managing partner Pallavi Shroff, Ant Financial CEO Eric Jing, and Goldman Sachs Asia chairman Mark Schwartz.

“Berkshire’s experience in financial services, and long-term investment horizon is going to be a huge advantage in Paytm’s journey of bringing 500 million Indians to the mainstream economy through financial inclusion,” Paytm’s founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma noted.

For a company the size of Berkshire, the $356 million investment in One97 Communications Ltd hardly makes a dent in its mountain of cash, which totaled $111 billion at the end of the second quarter. In fact, it represents just over a week’s profit at the rate Berkshire is currently generating it. However, the investment, while small, shows that Berkshire is both looking beyond the U.S. for investment opportunities and beyond its traditional investment parameters.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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