Costco (COST) has a leg up on e-commerce behemoth Amazon (AMZN) on at least one measure, according to Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
"Costco, I do think, has one thing that Amazon does not," the billionaire investor said during the Annual Meeting of Shareholders of the Daily Journal Corporation (DJCO) in Los Angeles on Wednesday. "People really trust Costco to be delivering enormous values."
"That is why Costco presents some danger to Amazon — because they've got a better reputation for providing value than practically anybody including Amazon," he added.
Munger's comments came shortly after Berkshire Hathaway revealed in November that it had exited its stake in Costco, with the move taking place during a year when Costco's stock price soared to record levels as consumers stocked their pantries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Berkshire Hathaway had invested in Costco for two decades. The firm sold 4.33 million shares valued at $1.31 billion.
However, Munger has maintained ongoing ties to Costco. Munger has served as a director at Costco since 1997, and has praised the company for its corporate culture over the years. And a filing showed he personally owned more than 186,000 shares of the company as of December.
"It's quite important," Munger said in response to a later inquiry over the importance of evaluating a company's culture in making investment decisions. "Part of the success of a company like Costco — and it's been amazing that one little company, starting up not all that many decades ago could become as big as Costco did as fast as Costco did. And part of the reason for that was cultural. They have created a strong culture of fanaticism about cost and quality and so forth, and efficiency and honor, all the good things. And of course, it's all worked. And so, of course culture is very important."
Munger still had plaudits for Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos, who is set to depart from the company he founded later this year. However, Munger added that he was not planning on investing in any of Bezos's new, post-Amazon endeavors.
"I'm a great admirer of Jeff Bezos, whom I consider one of the smartest businessmen who ever lived," Munger said. "But I won't be following him. We have our crotchets. And I just don't know enough about it to want to go into that activity."
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