Warren Buffett regrets not investing in Google.
The Berkshire Hathaway CEO told shareholders on Saturday that he “blew it” even though he understood the company’s prospects for growth.
In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Buffett explained why: Google’s search ad business is like a natural monopoly, meaning that the costs of building a company with a similar market share are large enough to fend off any serious takers. Google is poised to get approximately 78% of total US search ad revenues in 2017, according to eMarketer.
“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 was speaking specifically about search, just one of several units of Google that include YouTube and Android. Google itself was folded into parent company Alphabet in 2015.
The European Commission, which oversees competition policy, opened an antitrust investigation seven years ago that was prompted by complaints from US and European rivals including Microsoft. Google rejected the case last year after a follow-up case was brought against it, and argued that other major tech companies like Amazon demonstrated that it had not cornered the local market.