- Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee died Sunday at the age of 78.
- The head of the South Korean conglomerate once counted Warren Buffett as a shareholder.
- Buffett, a billionaire and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, made “hundreds of millions” out of a rare overseas bet on Samsung, as he revealed in a 2018 CNBC interview.
- “It was a big, strong and good company,” he said.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
Samsung billionaire chairman Lee Kun-hee died on Sunday at the age of 78 after a prolonged illness. He once counted Warren Buffett, the famous investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, as a shareholder.
Lee’s father, Lee Byung-chull, founded Samsung in 1938 as an exporter of fish, fruit and noodles. Lee took over the helm in 1987 and helped grow the South Korean company into a sprawling global conglomerate interested in consumer electronics, microchips and home ownership in household appliances, medical devices, life insurance, shipbuilding and theme parks.
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There are clear similarities between Samsung and Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
They both own numerous companies in a wide variety of sectors including insurance, energy, manufacturing, construction, transportation, and retail.
Berkshire also holds billions in shares in Apple, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, American Express, and other public companies.
The similarities may have been a factor in Buffett’s decision to invest in Samsung, although he stayed with American companies for most of his career. He revealed the rare overseas bet during a CNBC interview in 2018.
Berkshire bought a “fair amount” of Samsung stock when it was trading at about 1 million won ($ 886) per share, Buffett said. This price is equivalent to 20,000 won after the group’s 50-for-1 stock split in 2018.
The investor was impressed by the South Korean company’s low valuation and robust balance sheet, as well as the prospect of share buybacks.
“It was very, very cheap,” said Buffett. “You had a lot of money. They hadn’t bought much of their stocks, but they talked about it. ”
“It was a big, strong and good company,” he added.
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Berkshire targeted South Korea because stocks were “ridiculously cheap” after the financial crisis in the late 1990s, which meant there were “lots of bargains,” Buffett said.
The investor and his team eventually paid off after Samsung’s share price rose about 80%. A weaker won also increased their dollar return.
“We’ve probably made hundreds of millions,” said Buffett. “Could have been $ 500 million, $ 400 million, I don’t remember exactly,” he added.
The estimated return suggests that Berkshire invested approximately $ 500 to $ 600 million in Samsung.
Buffett’s bet paid off well, but he may have sold too early. Samsung’s shares have tripled since investing in Berkshire and are now changing hands at over 60,000 won each.
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