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Warren Buffett gives reason for surprise sale of stake in Taiwan’s TSMC

<i>Lucas Jackson/Reuters/File</i><br/>
Lucas Jackson/Reuters/File

By Juliana Liu, CNN

Warren Buffett says geopolitical tensions were “a consideration” in the decision to sell most of Berkshire Hathaway’s shares in global chip giant TSMC, which is based in Taiwan.

The 92-year-old “Oracle of Omaha” shed light on the investment call in a Tuesday interview with Japanese news agency Nikkei. He was quoted as sayiing that TSMC was a well-managed company but that Berkshire had “better places” to deploy its capital.

In February, Berkshire Hathaway revealed that it had sold 86% of its shares in TSMC, which were purchased for $4.1 billion just months before.

The quick sale was considered unusual because the billionaire is known for making longer term bets. The size of the purchase suggested that the initial purchase was most likely made personally by Buffett himself, rather than one of his portfolio managers, Reuters reported.

TSMC is considered a national treasure in Taiwan and supplies semiconductors to tech giants including Apple and Qualcomm. It mass produces the most advanced semiconductors in the world, components that are vital to the smooth running of everything from smartphones to washing machines.

The company is perceived as being so valuable to the global economy, as well as to China — which claims Taiwan as its own territory despite having never controlled it — that it is sometimes even referred to as forming part of a “silicon shield” against a potential military invasion by Beijing.

TSMC’s presence is seen as providing a strong incentive to the West to defend Taiwan against any attempt by China to take it by force.

This week, tensions soared across the Taiwan Strait after China simulated “joint precision strikes” on the island during a series of military exercises.

Beijing launched the drills on Saturday, a day after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a 10-day visit to Central America and the United States where she met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Chinese officials described the drills as “a serious warning against the Taiwan separatist forces’ collusion with external forces, and a necessary move to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Beijing conducted similar large-scale military exercises around Taiwan last August, after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island.

Taiwan and China have been governed separately since the end of a civil war more than seven decades ago, in which the defeated Nationalists fled to Taipei.

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