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Buffett Bets $1 Billion More on Phillips 66 (8/29/16)

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Enterprising Investor Member Level  Monday, 08/29/16 12:05:16 PM
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Buffett Bets $1 Billion More on Phillips 66 (8/29/16)

Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiaries have raised its stake in the refiner to 15.2%.

By Ed Lin

Warren Buffett has shown a lot of love in 2016 for a stock that has been playing dead.

So far this year, Berkshire Hathaway (ticker: BRKB ) and its subsidiaries have paid about $1.39 billion for an additional 18 million more Phillips 66 ( PSX ) shares, according to regulatory filings, lifting its stake to 79,486,181 shares, or a 15.2% stake. Berkshire held 61,486,926 Phillips 66 shares at year-end 2015, an 11.8% stake. Percentage stakes are based on the refiner’s outstanding shares as of June 30.

In his much-scrutinized annual shareholder letter, released in February, Buffett touted Berkshire’s big four holdings — American Express ( AXP ), Coca-Cola, International Business Machines (IBM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC ) — as “excellent businesses” run by “talented and shareholder-oriented” managers. He didn’t single out Phillips 66 for commentary, but it was noted in a table that as of Dec. 31, Berkshire had paid $4.357 billion for 55.4 million Phillips 66 shares, or an average of $78.67 each, excluding 6.1 million shares held in subsidiary pension funds. In 2016, Berkshire paid an average of $77.23 each for the 18 million shares purchased.

Unfortunately, Phillips 66’s now 3.24% dividend yield has topped the lackluster share-price appreciation. Phillips 66 closed at $78.62 on Friday. Shares purchased in 2015 have on average lost a nickel each, excluding dividends, while those purchased this year have inched up a lowly 1.8%, excluding dividends.

Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire, turned heads when he disclosed that his stake in Phillips 66 had exceeded 10% in late August of last year. We were bullish on Phillips 66 at the time .

Phillips 66 shares did in fact rise through the end of 2015, as we noted. But good news hasn’t been gushing in 2016.

A disappointing fourth-quarter report in late January sent Phillips 66 shares sliding to the low $70s from the $80s. As the stock rallied back in the ensuing months to the high $80s, a disappointing first-quarter report in late April was a knockout blow — the stock would mostly trade sub-$80 going forward. In June, the company was one of several refiners who were issued subpoenas by California’s attorney general as part of an investigation into whether the companies artificially raised retail gasoline prices in the state. Investors braced themselves for the second-quarter report in late July, and even though both revenue and profits slid, the latter surprisingly topped expectations.

The latest issue is a standoff between members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and police guarding the construction site for a 1,154-mile pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota. Phillips 66 owns 25% of the pipeline.

This year Buffett bought Phillips 66 shares mostly when the stock dipped throughout January and early February, and also late May and early June. His most recent purchases, totaling about $55 million, were made week. Buffett bought in blocks as small as 100 shares and as large as over a million shares.


"Someone said it takes 30 years to be an instant success" - Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, CEO of Harwood International
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