Must Read: Why Warren Buffett Avoids Tech Stocks

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(List compiled by Andrew Dominguez. Data sourced from Finviz and Fidelity.)

In a 1998 lecture at the University of Washington, billionaire best buds Bill Gates and Warren Buffett explained why tech stocks trade at lower multiples than others and why Buffett avoids them altogether. Here are some of the main points:

Buffett takes a long-term view on his investments, and he only invests in companies he understands. His investing strategy, he said, involves looking for companies whose products and business models would not change over the course of 15 to 20 years. 

In other words, he is attracted to companies with products that will continue to be competitive and desirable for many years to come.

He highlights a few of the companies he had invested in (through Berkshire Hathaway), including Coca-Cola, Dairy Queen, and Gillette - all prime examples of companies addressing perennial wants and needs. 

Buffett explains that the internet, while useful, is volatile. Tech firms, as Gates said, must always be on their toes because of the intense competition in the sector. This means that tech offerings are ever changing and the marketplace can change drastically from year to year. 

This is why the two agree that tech stocks should trade at lower multiples. The future of tech is (wonderfully) unpredictable.

Warren Buffett: “I look for businesses in which I think I can predict what they’re going to look like in ten or 15 or 20 years… Take Wrigley’s chewing gum. I don’t think the Internet is going to change how people are going to chew gum… I don’t think it will change whether people shave or how they shave.”

Bill Gates: “I think the multiples of technology stocks should be quite a bit lower than the multiples of stocks like Coke and Gillette, because we are subject to complete changes in the rules.” (Quotes via Felix Salmon)

Looking for tech stocks currently trading at low earnings multiples? Here is a list of companies with Price-Earnings-to-Growth (PEG) ratios between 0.7 and 1.0 that have seen significant institutional buying during the current quarter.

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List sorted according to net shares purchased by institutional investors as a percentage of the share float.

1. Mercury Computer Systems, Inc. (MRCY): Computer Peripherals industry with a market cap of $531.47M. PEG ratio at 1.00. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 6.0M shares (net), which represents 21.64% of the 27.73M share float.

2. Ebix Inc. (EBIX): Business Software & Services industry with a market cap of $772.43M. PEG ratio at 0.84. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 3.9M shares (net), which represents 11.46% of the 34.03M share float.

3. Synaptics Inc. (SYNA): Computer Peripherals industry with a market cap of $863.78M. PEG ratio at 0.74. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 3.3M shares (net), which represents 9.72% of the 33.96M share float.

4. Rudolph Technologies Inc. (RTEC): Scientific & Technical Instruments industry with a market cap of $301.94M. PEG ratio at 0.95. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 2.1M shares (net), which represents 7.05% of the 29.79M share float.

5. Finisar Corp. (FNSR): Networking & Communication Devices industry with a market cap of $1.68B. PEG ratio at 0.77. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 5.7M shares (net), which represents 6.44% of the 88.54M share float.

6. Spreadtrum Communications Inc. (SPRD): Broad Line Semiconductor industry with a market cap of $686.88M. PEG ratio at 0.73. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 1.6M shares (net), which represents 4.64% of the 34.45M share float.

7. Neutral Tandem, Inc. (TNDM): Wireless Communications industry with a market cap of $572.05M. PEG ratio at 0.99. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 1.5M shares (net), which represents 4.57% of the 32.79M share float.

8. The KEYW Holding Corporation (KEYW): Security Software & Services industry with a market cap of $303.57M. PEG ratio at 0.91. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 875.4K shares (net), which represents 4.29% of the 20.39M share float.

9. First Solar, Inc. (FSLR): Specialized Semiconductor industry with a market cap of $10.39B. PEG ratio at 0.88. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 2.3M shares (net), which represents 3.92% of the 58.70M share float.

10. CTS Corporation (CTS): Diversified Electronics industry with a market cap of $333.M. PEG ratio at 0.99. During the current quarter, institutional investors have purchased 1.1M shares (net), which represents 3.33% of the 33.03M share float.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Investing Ideas , Stocks


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