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gfp927z   Sunday, 08/16/20 10:43:54 AM
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>>> 8 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Selling (And 6 He's Buying)


by Dan Burrows



After pretty much laying low in the first three months of the year, Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), made sweeping changes to its stock portfolio during the second quarter.

Most notably, he continued to sell off equities. After dumping shares in 19 positions during the first quarter, Warren Buffett fully exited seven positions and sold off parts of another 11 stakes. But he was a little more active on the buying side, too, adding to four positions and initiating a stake in a company that's well outside of his traditional wheelhouse.

The Oracle of Omaha has made a few other interesting moves of late, too. That includes finally putting Berkshire's massive cash pile to use in a $9.7 billion buyout of Dominion Energy's (D) midstream energy business – his biggest deal in years – and a big bet on himself.

Of course, we know what the greatest long-term investor of all time has been doing because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires all investment managers with more than $100 million in assets to file a Form 13F quarterly to disclose any changes in share ownership. These filings add an important level of transparency to the stock market and give Buffett-ologists a chance to get a bead on what he's thinking.

When Buffett starts a new stake in some company, or adds to an existing one, investors read into that as a vote of confidence. But if he pares his holdings in a stock, it can spark investors to rethink their own investments. The fact that Berkshire Hathaway continued to shed weight even as the market began to rebound in Q2 underscores how challenging it is to make investing decisions these days.

Here's the scorecard for what Warren Buffett was buying and selling during the three months ended June 30, 2020, based on the most recent 13F that the company filed on Aug. 14. And remember: Not all "Warren Buffett stocks" are actually his picks. Some smaller positions are believed to be handled by lieutenants Ted Weschler and Todd Combs.

U.S. Bancorp

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 131,961,832 (-0.4% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $4,858,836,000

U.S. Bancorp (USB, $37.78) is the nation's fifth-largest bank by assets and America's biggest regional bank. It's also one of the oldest Buffett stocks in the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio; the Oracle of Omaha initiated his position in the first quarter of 2006.

And unlike with many other Berkshire bank holdings, Buffett did very little with it during the second quarter. BRK trimmed a quarter of a million shares in Q2, representing a mere fifth of a percent of the overall stake.

Buffett typically doesn't talk much about U.S. Bancorp, but it has been a solid pick by comparison to many of his other bank holdings. The lender has consistently generated the highest returns among the top 10 banks, and it has delivered a total return of 84% since March 31, 2006, versus a 28% gain for the financial sector.

Liberty Sirius XM Group Series A

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 14,860,360 (-1% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $512,980,000

Berkshire has managed to find a way to own Sirius XM in multiple ways.

Liberty Media (LBTYA), another Berkshire holding, has for years held a large stake in Sirius XM Holdings. But in 2015, the company actually recapitalized, offering (among other things) several tracking stocks that allowed investors to enjoy in the performance of Liberty's Sirius XM investment directly rather than get it piecemeal through Liberty Media itself.

Thus, Buffett was actually exposed to Sirius XM before it directly invested in SIRI shares in Q4 2016. And over time, he has bought more of the tracking stock, the overall body of which currently represents Liberty's 70%-plus stake in Sirius XM.

Berkshire did do a little trimming to this position in Q2 2020 … sort of. He let go of roughly a quarter million Liberty Sirius XM Group Series A (LSXMA, $36.04) shares. But as we'll see in a bit, that wasn't his final word on Liberty Sirius XM Group.

Charter Communications

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 5,213,461 (-3% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $2,659,074,000

Charter Communications (CHTR, $604.99) markets cable TV, internet, telephone and other services under the Spectrum brand, which is America's second-largest cable operator behind Comcast (CMCSA). It greatly expanded its reach in 2016 when it acquired Time Warner Cable and sister company Bright House Networks.

Buffett entered CHTR in the second quarter of 2014, but he has seemingly lost his love for the telecom company in recent years. His position has been trimmed down from 9.4 million shares in early 2017 to just 5.2 million shares as of Berkshire's most recent 13F, including a 210,000-share reduction in Q2 2020.

The move away from Charter meshed with a lousy 2018 for the stock, which lost 15% that year. But he had lousy timing in 2019. Buffett continued to sell his position during the first and second quarters, but CHTR shares finished the year with a 70% return.

Berkshire Hathaway's current stake still represents a decent-sized 2.5% ownership in Charter, and 1.3% of Berkshire's equity assets.


Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 9,987,460 (-5% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $1,929,278,000

Warren Buffett took a little bite out of his holdings in America's two largest payments providers last quarter.

First up: Visa (V, $196.64), which operates the world's largest payments network, and thus is well-positioned to benefit from the growth of cashless transactions and digital mobile payments. Visa was the idea of lieutenants Todd Combs and/or Ted Weschler (Buffett won't tell), and Buffett has expressed previously that he wished Berkshire had bought more.

Berkshire Hathaway initiated its position in Visa during the third quarter of 2011, and it has proven to be a mammoth winner. Including dividends, Visa has delivered a whopping annualized return of 30.7% since Sept. 30, 2011. It's also a dividend-growth machine, ramping up its payout by 150% over the past five years alone.

"If I had been as smart as Ted or Todd, I would have (bought Visa)," Buffett told shareholders at the 2018 annual meeting.

Berkshire's half-percent stake in Visa doesn't even put it among the top 25 investors, though it's a not-insignificant 1% or so of Buffett's portfolio.


Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 4,564,756 (-7% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $$1,349,798,000

Warren Buffett gives credit where credit is due. While Berkshire Hathaway does indeed own Mastercard (MA, $326.80), he has nodded to his portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, who made the call to buy both Mastercard and rival Visa.

"I could have bought them as well, and looking back, I should have," Buffett said about Visa and Mastercard in 2018, referring to his own investment in American Express.

Mastercard, which boasts 926 million cards in use across the world, is one of several payments processors under the Berkshire umbrella. However, after mostly leaving the stock alone since entering a position during the first quarter of 2011, Buffett sold off 300,000 shares, or 7% of the stake, in Q2 2020.

Don't take this as a bearish stance on Mastercard. MA has returned some 1,270%, including dividends since March 31, 2011 – several times better than the S&P 500 in that time. Warren Buffett was due for a little profit-taking.

Bank of New York Mellon

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 72,357,453 (-9% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $2,796,615,000

Bank of New York Mellon (BK, $37.53) isn't a household name, but it's a big deal in financial services, and Warren Buffett has been enamored with the stock for some time.

And despite some trimming in Q2 2020, he largely seems to remain a fan.

Bank of New York Mellon is a custodian bank that holds assets for institutional clients and provides back-end accounting services. Its roots actually go all the way back to 1784, when Bank of New York was founded by a group including Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Today, BK is the nation's ninth-largest bank by assets, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

Berkshire Hathaway first took a position in BK back during Q3 2010, when it paid an estimated average price of $43.90. Bank of New York Mellon wasn't completely spared a haircut during the second quarter, but Warren Buffett's 7.4 million-share sale, at 9% of the stake, was less drastic than his other financial-stock reductions.

Buffett remains the largest investor at 8.2% of shares, ahead of No. 2 Vanguard, at 7.3%.

M&T Bank

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 4,536,174 (-15% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $471,626,000

Warren Buffett's affection for M&T Bank (MTB, $109.21), like many of his other financial holdings, seems to have waned this year.

M&T Bank is a regional bank that operates more than 690 branches in nine states, including New York, Maryland and New Jersey, as well as Washington, D.C., and it has been profitable year after year for decades. It also has been a reliable dividend payer.

Buffett has a soft spot for well-run, unassuming businesses. And he frequently cites the importance of management talent when it comes to deciding where to invest. He certainly was a fan of M&T Bank's late CEO. In 2011, Buffett recommended that Berkshire Hathaway shareholders read M&T's annual reports, which were written by Robert Williams, chairman and CEO from 1983 until his death in 2017. "Bob is a very smart guy and he has a lot of good observations," Buffett said.

Nonetheless, Buffett dumped about 850,000 shares during the second quarter. Even then, Berkshire remains M&T's seventh-largest shareholder at 3.5% of the stock outstanding.

Wells Fargo

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 237,582,705 (-26% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $6,082,118,000

Warren Buffett clearly is tiring of Wells Fargo (WFC, $25.30).

The nation's fourth-largest bank by assets has been in the Berkshire portfolio since 2001. But it has turned into a weight around Buffett's neck since 2016, when numerous scandals bubbled to the surface. The bank opened millions of phony accounts, modified mortgages without authorization and charged customers for auto insurance they did not need. The clean-up process has been slow and claimed not one, but two CEOs.

WFC stock, meanwhile, has lagged its peers for quite some time.

Buffett has sold off Wells Fargo shares in numerous quarters since the start of 2018. Most of the previous sales appeared to be routine paring on the position to keep it below a regulatory 10% maximum ownership threshold for banks. However, Buffett dumped more than 55 million shares, or nearly 15% of his position, at the end of last year. And in Q2 2020, he booted 85.6 million shares, or more than a quarter of the remaining stake.

As a result, Berkshire, at a 5.8% stake, is now the former largest WFC shareholder. Vanguard and BlackRock are now la Berkshire The Berkshire Hathaway portfolio is no longer the largest WFC shareholder as a result. The now 5.8% stake is behind both Vanguard and BlackRock.

PNC Financial Services

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 5,350,586 (-41% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $562,935,000

Warren Buffett had been buying PNC Financial Services (PNC, $111.75) for a couple years. Berkshire began investing in PNC, the nation's sixth-largest bank by assets and second-largest regional lender, during the third quarter of 2018. Buffett upped Berkshire Hathaway's stake by another 4% in Q1 2019. And he added another 6%, or 526,930 shares, to start this year.

But Buffett sold off heavily from his bank positions during the second quarter, and that included lopping off 3.9 million shares from his PNC position.

That dropped his holding company well out of PNC's top 10 holders with 1.3% of the bank's shares outstanding.

Buffett had long been comfortable with investing in the banking business. At the 1995 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, he said the industry "falls within our circle of competence to evaluate." But 2020's pain in the financial sector forced Buffett's hand.

JPMorgan Chase

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 22,208,427 (-61% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $2,088,925,000

Berkshire Hathaway treated JPMorgan Chase (JPM, $102.41), the nation's largest bank by assets, much the same way it treated PNC during the second quarter. While Buffett upped his stake several times after entering his position during the third quarter of 2018, he chopped 35.5 million shares, or 61% of the position, last quarter following a 1.8-million share (3%) trim during Q1 2020.

Berkshire still was the sixth-largest shareholder in JPM as of the first quarter's end, but it has since dropped to 18th.

Part of the original attraction for JPMorgan is because of Warren Buffett's professed admiration for CEO Jamie Dimon. The two have partnered with Jeff Bezos, chairman and CEO of Amazon.com, to form a health care initiative intended to improve coverage and lower costs. Dimon and Buffett also have teamed up to decry the practice of giving quarterly profit forecasts, saying "short-termism is hurting the economy."

But banks have fallen out of Uncle Warren's favor, so much of the JPM stake had to go.

Sirius XM Holdings

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 50,000,000 (-62% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $293,500,000

Sirius XM (SIRI, $5.98) reaches more than 100 million listeners via its core satellite radio business and Pandora, which it acquired in 2018. And it's yet another stock pick related to John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, which owns a massive stake in Sirius XM.

It's possible that all of Berkshire's investments in companies that are somehow tied to Malone's truly Byzantine corporate structure could very well be the responsibility of one of Buffett's portfolio managers. Liberty Media was a large position held by Ted Weschler's Peninsula Capital in his pre-Berkshire days.

But Berkshire's affinity for this particular Malone-related position has been waning of late.

Buffett first bought shares in SIRI during the final quarter of 2016. Berkshire unloaded a small portion (1%) of its Sirius XM position during the third quarter. The Oracle of Omaha then trimmed his position by another 3.9 million shares, or about 2% of Berkshire's stake, in Q1 2020.

But Berkshire Hathaway really went to town in Q2, unloading more than 82 million shares. That brings its ownership down from 3% to a little more than 1%. But that still makes Buffett the fourth-largest owner of SIRI stock, well behind Liberty Global's 72% stake.

Occidental Petroleum

Action: Exited stake
Shares held: 0 (-100% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $0

Warren Buffett spent the better part of 2019 building up a stake in Occidental Petroleum (OXY, $14.64), but it appears he finally had enough. BRK.B sold it the entirety of its OXY holdings in Q2.

Buffett invested $10 billion in the integrated oil-and-gas company in late April 2019 to help finance a $38 billion bid for exploration-and-production firm Anadarko Petroleum. Berkshire continued to amass a stake over the next year, but apparently Buffett's strategy in the energy sector changed.

First, he dumped Berkshire's stake in Phillips 66 (PSX) in the first quarter of 2020. Then he bought natural gas assets from Diamond Energy for almost $10 billion in July. And now he's out of OXY, making Suncor Energy (SU) the lone energy component of Berkshire Hathaway's equity portfolio.

The fact that Occidental was forced to slash its dividend earlier this year no doubt factored into his decision.

At one point, Berkshire's stake represented 2.1% of Occidental's shares, making it the company's eighth-largest stakeholder. That's all ancient history now.

Airline Stocks

Action: Exited stakes
Shares held: 0 (-100% from Q1 2020)
Value of stakes: $0

As was well reported at the time, Buffett jettisoned all four of his airline stocks last spring as the global pandemic caused travel to collapse.

"I don't know whether two or three years from now that as many people will fly as many passenger miles as they did last year," Buffett said. "They may and they may not, but the future is much less clear to me."

Collectively, Berkshire sold 175 million shares in the four air carriers – Delta Air Lines (DAL, $28.94), United Airlines (UAL, $36.18), American Airlines (AAL, $13.33) and Southwest (LUV, $34.90). The stakes were worth a total of around $4 billion at the time.

In the case of DAL, he sold off the 71.9 million shares in Berkshire's portfolio in Q2. As for the others, UAL share sales came to 22.2 million, LUV shares were 53.6 million and the AAL stake comprised 41.9 million shares.

Buffett's original airline investments, made back in 2016, raised some eyebrows given his long-term disdain for the industry as a place where capital goes to die. It looks like he was right the first time.

Goldman Sachs

Action: Exited stake
Shares held: 0 (-100% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $0

Berkshire Hathaway had been hacking away at its Goldman Sachs (GS, $207.97) stake for a couple of quarters before unloading everything it had left. The holding company sold the last of its 1.9 million shares in the second quarter.

Berkshire first picked up its stake in Goldman during the 2008 financial crisis. Buffett paid $5 billion for preferred shares and warrants to purchase common stock. The preferred shares came with a dividend yield of 10% – almost twice the rate of some preferred stocks, which already are considered generous income plays.

Goldman redeemed its preferred shares in 2011. Berkshire bought another $2 billion in GS stock when it exercised the warrants in 2013.

Buffett parlayed the original investment into what at one point was a $3.8 billion, 5.1% stake in Wall Street's preeminent investment bank that made Berkshire its fourth-largest shareholder.

But times change. Buffett is now out of the Goldman Sachs business.

Restaurant Brands International

Action: Exited stake
Shares held: 0 (-100% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $0

We don't know for sure, but the reasons behind Buffett exiting Berkshire's position in Restaurant Brands International (QSR, $54.42) seem obvious.

QSR is a fast-food powerhouse, and it's not like the restaurant biz is thriving in this age of coronavirus. Restaurant Brands International was formed by the 2014 merger of Burger King and Tim Hortons. Three years later, the company acquired Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. It's now the world's fourth-largest operator of fast-food restaurants.

So where did Warren Buffett come in? Berkshire Hathaway helped fund Burger King's acquisition of Tim Hortons by purchasing a combination of preferred shares and warrants. In a classic Buffett move, he was able to finagle a 9% yield from the preferred shares. QSR redeemed the preferreds in 2017, adding to Berkshire's cash pile.

The loss of foot traffic to restaurants of all sizes and types makes the industry's future opaque at best. Thus, it's not surprising that Buffett made his exit, selling 8.4 million shares in QSR last quarter.


Action: Added to stake
Shares held: 21,940,079 (+15% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $742,672,000

Berkshire Hathaway's stake of supermarket titan Kroger (KR, $35.39), entered in Q4 2019, seemed like a sleepy pick. After all, many investors have soured on traditional supermarket chains given the emergence of Walmart (WMT), Amazon.com (AMZN) and other competitors.

Also, Kroger stood out as an old-economy value play versus many of the more "growthy" picks Berkshire has made of late, such as Apple (AAPL), Amazon and StoneCo (STNE).

But Buffett nonetheless entered a 18.9 million-share position at the end of 2019, then added another 3 million shares (15%) during the second quarter of 2020 to give him nearly 22 million shares. That makes Berkshire the sixth-largest investor in Kroger at 2.8% of shares outstanding. It's a small 0.37% of Berkshire's equity assets, but Kroger's 25% returns year-to-date have no doubt been welcome as so many other Buffett stocks have floundered.

Suncor Energy

Action: Added to stake
Shares held: 19,201,525 (+28% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $323,738,000

Suncor Energy (SU, $17.00)– an integrated energy giant whose operations span oil sands developments, offshore oil production, biofuels and even wind energy – also sells its refined fuel via a network of more than 1,500 Petro-Canada stations.

It also stands alone. Thanks to several other exits over the past year, this Canadian integrated oil company is the lone energy stock in the Berkshire portfolio.

And after trimming his position a little in Q1, Buffett added to it in a big way during Q2.

Buffett bought 4.25 million shares last quarter to bring his stake to more than 19 million shares. It's still a small holding, representing about 0.16% of the Berkshire equity portfolio's worth, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. But the stake is meaningful to Suncor, as it represents 1.3% of its shares outstanding, making Buffett the 13th-largest owner of SU shares.

If this bet on Suncor sounds familiar, it should: When Buffett entered SU during the fourth quarter of 2018, that marked the second time Berkshire Hathaway has taken a stab at Suncor. The company originally invested in the energy giant in 2013, then sold the entirety of the position three years later.

Store Capital

Action: Added to stake
Shares held: 24,415,168 (+31% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $581,325,000

Berkshire's position in Store Capital (STOR, $25.26), which it entered during the summer of 2017, was an unusual one. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) – a way to invest in real estate without owning the actual assets – have never been big among Buffett stocks.

Store invests in single-tenant properties including chain restaurants, supermarkets, drugstores and other retail, service and distribution facilities. That is to say, Store is a bet on brick-and-mortar retail, which is thought to be in permanent decline.

Buffett, however, spied value – and he spied it for quite some time. Store Capital CEO Christopher Volk told CNBC that Buffett studied the REIT for three years before taking his position.

The Oracle of Omaha must've seen similar value arise in the company's February-March dip, which sent STOR shares off by roughly 65% from peak to trough. Because he bought 5.8 million shares, or an additional 31%, to bring his stake to 24.4 million shares yielding 5.5% at current prices.

BRK.B now owns 10% of shares outstanding, making it Store Capital's second-largest shareholder after Vanguard and BlackRock.

Liberty Sirius XM Group Series C

Action: Reduced stake
Shares held: 43,208,291 (+37% from Q1 2020)
Value of stake: $1,488,525,000

As we mentioned before, Buffett did give his holding in Liberty Sirius XM Group Series A shares a small haircut. But he more than made up with it via a big buy of Liberty Sirius XM Group Series C (LSXMK, $35.95) during the quarter.

Namely, he tacked on 11.8 million shares of LSXMK in Q2, which was his largest portfolio addition of any existing Berkshire position.

The Berkshire Hathaway portfolio now holds more than 58 million shares of LSXMA and LSXMK combined. Warren Buffett is the largest institutional shareholder in each class, holding 4.3% of Liberty Sirius XM's A shares, and 12.6% of the C shares. Combined with his SIRI stake, the Oracle of Omaha holds three different investments in Sirius XM.

Barrick Gold

Action: Initiated stake
Shares held: 20,918,701
Value of stake: $563,550,000

Warren Buffett is the farthest thing from a gold bug. "It doesn't do anything but sit there and look at you," he's been known to say. But holding gold as an asset class isn't the same thing as investing in a gold miner such as Barrick Gold (GOLD, $26.99).

True, mining stocks are sensitive to the price of whatever commodity they are digging out of the ground. But at least they produce something, as in cash flow. In the case of Barrick, it even pays a small dividend.

Besides, Barrick has more going for it than gold. It also mines copper, which is used in just about everything. As such, it's a bet on a return to global growth.

Buffett picked up 20.9 million shares in Barrick in the second quarter. The stake has a value of $563.6 million. The Oracle of Omaha typically doesn't comment on his reasons for buying or selling a stock but let's hope he makes an exception for this one. It would be fascinating to hear his investment thesis for a stock that's so sensitive to the price of the so-called barbarous relic.

Berkshire Hathaway

Value of repurchased shares: $5.1 billion

OK, this one is a bit of a cheat, but Buffett did pour another big chunk of cash into another blue-chip equity: his own stock.

The firm bought back $5.1 billion in Berkshire's shares during the second quarter. That follows $1.74 billion in repurchases during the first quarter of 2020, and another $2.2 billion in Q4 2019.

In the most recent round of buybacks, Buffett picked up more than $4.6 billion of Berkshire Hathaway's Class B stock and about $486.6 million in Class A shares.

It hasn't been the greatest investment so far. Shares in BRK.B lost 2.6% over the course of the second quarter – a time when the broader market rallied by nearly 20%. And the conglomerate's stock is down almost 7% for the year-to-date vs. a gain of 4.4% for the S&P 500.

Still, Buffett, as disciplined a value investor as there ever was, is practically shouting from the rooftops that he thinks BRK.B is a slam-dunk bargain.


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