Buffett says Berkshire Hathaway has bought back 'a little' of its stock since changing policy

Key Points
  • Warren Buffett said he has recently approved buying back some of Berkshire Hathaway's shares.
  • He did not disclose how much, but said "intrinsic business value" is now the guidepost for repurchases and not price to book value.
Watch CNBC's interview with Warren Buffett

Berskhire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett said the company has bought back some of its shares as it changes the metric it uses to decide when repurchases are a good move.

Buffett did not disclose how much stock Berkshire bought back, but he did confirm that he has changed his views.

"We bought back a little yeah," he told CNBC's Becky Quick during a "Squawk Alley" interview. "We tie it now to intrinsic business value, which we should have done all along but for a while book value was a good proxy. It didn't fully describe intrinsic value .. it was a reasonable proxy."

Earlier this year, Buffett made headlines when he said he would consider buybacks as a strategy to deploy what was then a $116 billion cash pile that has grown to about $120 billion The company's standard had always been to do repurchases when the company's stock hit 120 percent of book value; both the class A and B shares are currently near 150 percent.

Berkshire's B shares are up 6.1 percent year to date, lagging the S&P 500's 8.8 percent increase.

However, Buffett stressed that decisions are not based on near-term thinking about what the stock is doing but rather on the best long-range strategy for investors.

"What really counts is what are the businesses worth along with the securities we own, and if it's at a discount to that figure Charlie (Munger) and I will buy, and we bought some," he said.

Watch the full Buffett interview here.

"We're totally in sync," he added to describe the thought process between him and Munger, 94, Berkshire's vice chairman and Buffett's long-time right hand in running the company.

The buyback news was welcome to at least one shareholder who has followed the company for decades. Whitney Tilson, the former head of Kase Capital hedge fund, told CNBC he was "delighted" to hear Buffett say the company had abandoned the book value metric for buybacks.

"Today I believe is the first time that Buffett has ever disclosed that they have bought back any shares above 1.2 times book," said Tilson, who has attended the last 21 annual Berkshire shareholder meetings held in Omaha, Nebraska. "And I think this is a major, material new piece of information because it means he's been buying back stock at 1.4 times book at least, which is where the stock has traded since then."

Tilson said the remarks implied a "soft floor" for Berkshire's A stock "north of $300,000 a share," compared to the $317,000 where it opened Thursday.

Buffett spoke on his 88th birthday and ahead of his annual lunch in New York with the winning bidder of the Glide auction.

"We need a big enough discount so we're buying at what we know is a price where the continuing shareholders are going to be better off because we bought it. We're running a business for the people who are going to stay, not the ones who are going to leave," he added.