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Warren Buffett likes to put his money where his mouth is: His penchant for Cherry Coke lines up with a huge stake in
KO). He liked fractional jet ownership firm NetJets so much that be bought the firm outright. And since his personal ride is a Cadillac DTS, it stands to reason that Buffett owns
General Motors' (
GM) stock too.
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General Motors was maybe the biggest conviction buy of the quarter, in fact. Berkshire increased its stake in the firm by 60% to 40 million shares. That gives the firm a $1.3 billion position in GM at last count. Today's General Motors isn't your grandfather's GM -- literally and figuratively. After going bankrupt in the Great Recession, the firm has made leaps and bounds, becoming a shining example of how to fix a broken business. The firm has shed unprofitable brands and significantly improved its build quality, churning out cars that are dramatically more competitive with their imported rivals than ever before.
GM achieved in bankruptcy what its previous iteration never could as a going concern -- it negotiated labor costs down to levels that allowed it to become competitive, and not just here at home. Indeed, nearly 70% of GM vehicles are sold outside of North America today, with a huge share coming from emerging-market countries such as China and Brazil. A new, more svelte operational structure means that GM is able to hit breakeven at much lower levels than before. And shareholders are benefitting in a big way.
While big pension obligations and a UAW labor contract two years from now do pose risks to GM's profitability, UAW's stake in GM shares helps align both sides of the table better than before. A balance sheet full of cash and renewed focus on building good cars again make GM a competitive name worth owning for core consumer cyclical exposure.