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Buffett apparently made the decision as his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, goes on its fourth year without making a significant acquisition despite its $128 billion cash on hand.
LVMH offered Buffett the chance to make a counteroffer, but he declined, The Financial Times reported citing those who know the circumstances. Buffett confirmed to the Times that LVMH approached him with the opportunity.
The luxury goods company purchased Tiffany on Nov. 25 for a total of $16.2 billion.
"Since 1886, when it established the eponymous diamond ring as an enduring symbol of commitment, Tiffany has stood for love. Its extraordinary diamonds are cherished for generations and its legendary jewelry designs are the ultimate reference in the global jewelry world. Even the Tiffany Blue Box is recognized worldwide as an icon of refinement and desirability," LVMH said in a press release at the time.
"The acquisition of Tiffany will strengthen LVMH’s position in jewelry and further increase its presence in the United States. The addition of Tiffany will transform LVMH’s Watches & Jewelry division and complement LVMH’s 75 distinguished Houses," the release said.
Berkshire’s cash pile swelled to a record $128 billion at the end of the third quarter of 2019 despite Buffett declaring earlier that he was on the lookout for an "elephant-sized transaction." He has repeatedly said that valuations are too expensive for his liking. Buffett's $37 billion acquisition of Precision Castparts was the last big "elephant" that he bagged.
"In the years ahead, we hope to move much of our excess liquidity into businesses that Berkshire will permanently own," he wrote in February. "The immediate prospects for that, however, are not good: Prices are sky-high for businesses possessing decent long-term prospects."
Since then, Buffett’s stock-market valuations have only gotten more expensive as the S&P 500 rallied more than 24 percent in 2019, touching a fresh record.
Jonathan Garber contributed to this report.