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This Day In Market History: Buffett's $3B GE Bet

Wayne Duggan

Each day, Benzinga takes a look back at a notable market-related moment that occurred on this date.

What Happened

On this day 11 years ago, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) announced a $3 billion investment in General Electric Company (NYSE: GE).

Where The Market Was

The Dow closed at 10,831.07 and the S&P 500 traded at 1,161.06.

What Else Was Going On In The World

In 2008, President George W. Bush and Congress approved a $150-billion stimulus package in an attempt to stave off the recession. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) was the top buyer in a government auction of radio spectrum licenses that would pave the way for the next generation of wireless networks. The average price of a new car was $27,958.

Buffett's Buy

At the time Buffett invested in GE, the stock was trading at around $24.50 after taking a 33.1% hit over the previous six months thanks to the financial crisis.

But when Buffett stepped in to buy the dip, he ended up being nowhere near the bottom. GE stock continued to tank, falling another 82% to a crisis low of $4.20 in spring 2008.

Fortunately for Buffett, he did not buy common shares of GE stock. Instead, he bought preferred shares, which paid an annual dividend yield of 10%. Those shares were also convertible, meaning Buffett could choose to convert them to common shares.

GE eventually bounced back and was trading at around $25.14 when Buffett finally dumped the last of his GE investment.

Somehow, Buffett’s legendary investment prowess allowed him to make a massive investment in one of the worst-performing stocks of the past decade and ultimately generate a net profit of $1.7 billion on the deal.

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