How Google is Warren Buffett's 'one that got away'

The billionaire was talking about his few business regrets over the weekend...

How Google is Warren Buffett's 'one that got away'

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett plays table tennis against Bill Gates (unseen) at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Picture by: Nati Harnik/AP/Press Association Images

One of the world's most famous business magnates he may well be, but Warren Buffett is the first to admit that investing in tech has never been his forte.

While the 86-year-old Nebraskan's bank balance has remained in rude health nevertheless – with an estimated $74.1bn currently to his name, he's ranked fourth on Bloomberg's Billionaire Index – he is able to point to a couple of missed opportunities that even he still rues.

Speaking to shareholders at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting on Saturday, Buffett stated that not putting money into Alphabet, Google's parent company, was his most significant miss. Putting it simply, he said: 

"I had plenty of ways to ask questions, or anything of the sort, and educate myself. But I blew it."

Going into further detail about how he failed to see the potential in the globe's default search engine, he told CNBC's Squawk Box on Monday: 

"Just imagine having something every time to just hit a click, you know, a cash register rung somewhere out in California.

"So, it was and is an extraordinary business and it has some aspects of a natural monopoly. I mean, it's very easy for me when I go to a computer.

"I've worked with Google before... I'm looking for information for the annual report. I used to have to mail away to federal agencies or go down to the public library, and now I can get it in 10 seconds. So it's a hugely valuable device, which the other guy pays for. The user of the computer doesn't. The answer is we missed it."

Buffett's contrite admissions didn't end with Alphabet. Heaping praise on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (pictured above), he cited the online retail giant as another success story that eluded him at the crucial moment. 

"I was too dumb to realise. I did not think [Bezos] could succeed on the scale he has," Buffett said, adding that he "really underestimated the brilliance of the execution."

In a line destined to be quoted by market traders and investors for years to come, he held his hands up that he and business partner Charlie Munger "miss a lot of things, and we'll keep doing it."

Leaving the roads not taken to one side, his fallibility when being proactive was also spotlighted as he voiced his waning faith in Deep Blue:

"I don't value IBM the same way that I did six years ago when I started buying," he said on CNBC, revealing that he had cut his holdings in the stock by a third as the company had "run into some pretty tough competitors."

At least he can take some solace in the fact that his Berkshire Hathaway holding company has seen its share price double in the past half decade...