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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Dan Burrows, Contributing Writer
| June 14, 2019
When folks think of the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) portfolio and its collection of holdings, most of which were selected by Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, the companies that most readily come to mind are probably American Express (AXP), Coca-Cola (KO) and, more recently, Apple (AAPL).
But a deep dive into Berkshire Hathaway’s equity holdings reveals a more complicated picture.
Berkshire Hathaway held positions in 48 separate stocks as of March 31, according to regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But the portfolio of “Buffett stocks” isn’t as diversified as the number might suggest. In some cases, BRK.B holds more than one share class in the same company. Some holdings are so small as to be immaterial leftovers from earlier bets the Oracle of Omaha has yet to completely exit.
And perhaps most importantly, Berkshire Hathaway’s equity portfolio is actually pretty concentrated. The top six holdings account for almost 70% of the portfolio’s total value. The top 10 positions comprise nearly 80%. Banks and airlines, to cite a couple of sectors, carry quite a load in this portfolio. Then there’s the fact that several Buffett stocks actually were picked by portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler.
Here, we examine each and every holding to give investors a better understanding of the entire Berkshire Hathaway portfolio.
Berkshire portfolio and price data is as of June 11 unless otherwise specified. Stocks are listed in reverse order of their weight in the Berkshire Hathaway equity portfolio.
Shares held: 59,400
Holding value: $6,637,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.003%
United Parcel Service (UPS, $100.01) might be the world’s biggest package delivery company, but it’s immaterial when it comes to Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio. With fewer than 60,000 shares, this is the most meager of Buffett stocks – a rump position, leftovers, an odd lot.
Buffett first invested in UPS in the first quarter of 2006, when he picked up 1.43 million shares worth about $113.5 million. That comes to an average price per share of $79.38.
UPS never was a major part of Berkshire’s portfolio, and Buffett has pared the position over the years to where it wouldn’t be a surprise if he exited the stake at any time. (Berkshire recently dropped another small holding – telecom giant Verizon (VZ) – in the first quarter of 2019 when he dumped his last 928 shares.)
Although Buffett can be fairly chatty about some of his more notable stock picks, he typically doesn’t comment on BRK.B’s buys and sells. There’s no mention of United Parcel Service in CNBC’s indispensable Warren Buffett archive. But one clue as to why UPS never became a bigger part of Berkshire Hathaway’s holdings might be the fact that since March 31, 2006, it has delivered a total return of 85%. But Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index generated a total return of 190% in that same time frame.
Translation: UPS has been a bust for BRK.B.
Shares held: 578,000
Holding value: $28,854,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.01%
Berkshire Hathaway’s Mondelez (MDLZ, $53.99) holding stems from Buffett’s 2007 investment in what was then known as Kraft Foods. The packaged food company changed its name to Mondelez in 2012 after spinning off its North American grocery business, which was called Kraft Foods Group and traded under the ticker KRFT. In 2015, in a deal backed by Buffett, KRFT merged with H.J. Heinz to form Kraft Heinz (KHC).
As we’ll see shortly, Berkshire Hathaway maintains a significant stake in KHC. As for Mondelez? Not so much. Shares in MDLZ, whose brands include Oreo cookies and Triscuit crackers, have underperformed vs. the S&P 500 since the spinoff.
It doesn’t sound like Buffett is all that enamored with MDLZ, either. In 2017, he shot down speculation that Kraft Heinz would buy the global snacks giant.
Berkshire Hathaway owns just 0.04% of Mondelez shares outstanding, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. MDLZ accounts for only 0.01% of the total value of Berkshire Hathaway’s equity portfolio. Nothing to see here, folks.
Shares held: 315,400
Holding value: $32,817,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.02%
Procter & Gamble (PG, $109.38), the consumer products giant and component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is another blue-chip stock that has fallen by the wayside as a Berkshire Hathaway investment.
Buffett came to own P&G – maker of Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and Pampers diapers – by dint of the company’s 2005 acquisition of razor-maker Gillette. At the time, Buffett, a major Gillette shareholder, called the tie-up a “dream deal.” P&G became one of BRK.B’s biggest equity positions.
That dream didn’t last very long. The Great Recession eroded the pricing power of old-line consumer staples companies such as P&G. The company embarked on a plan to shed 100 underperforming brands. The Duracell battery business happened to be on the list, and Berkshire bought it in 2014 in exchange for PG stock. Two years later, Buffett pared what was left of the P&G stake by 99%.
Don’t be surprised if Buffett dumps the remaining shares any time now. He’s basically out.
Shares held: 327,100
Holding value: $45,725,000
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, $139.78), like P&G, is another defensive Dow stock that has fallen out of favor with Buffett. (Kraft Foods, incidentally, also was a Dow stock for a time, from 2008 to 2012.) BRK.B’s interest peaked more than a decade ago. Now, the diversified health-care giant represents nothing more than a token holding.
You can blame management missteps. J&J struggled with manufacturing problems and allegations of illegal marketing practices in 2010 and 2011. Buffett was critical of the company for those gaffes, as well as for using too much of its own stock in its 2011 acquisition of device-maker Synthes. Disenchanted with Johnson & Johnson, Buffett dumped most of Berkshire’s stake in 2012.
Berkshire’s position in JNJ topped out at 64.3 million shares in 2007. Today, the holding company’s equity stake comes to just 327,100 shares (about $45 million), which represents less than 0.01% of shares outstanding. Thus, Johnson & Johnson could likely disappear from the ranks of the Buffett stocks in the near future.
Shares held (Class A / Class C): 2,714,854 / 1,284,020
Holding value (Class A / Class C): $52,505,000 / $24,974,000
Percent of portfolio (Total): 0.04%
Liberty Latin America Class A (LILA, $17.78) and Liberty Latin America Class C (LILAK, $17.97) shares are just the first of several examples of BRK.B essentially betting on legendary pay-TV mogul John Malone.
Liberty Latin America provides cable, broadband, telephone and wireless services in Chile, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and other parts of Latin America. Liberty Global (LBTYA), the multinational telecommunications company in which Berkshire also holds a stake, issued tracking stock of its Latin American operations in 2015, then spun off those operations entirely in 2018.
As we’ll see below, Berkshire has several other investments in Malone-backed enterprises. Malone, a pioneer in the telecom industry and a multibillionaire himself, has created outsized value for shareholders over his long career.
Whether the various investments are Buffett’s ideas of those of his portfolio managers, the appeal is plain to understand: Game knows game.
Shares held: 10,758,000
Holding value: $348,882,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.17%
Warren Buffett made a move in the energy sector by initiating a position in Suncor Energy (SU, $30.61) in the fourth quarter of 2018. And it’s a rarity among Buffett stocks, as it’s not U.S.-based.
If this bet on Canada’s biggest oil and gas company sounds familiar, it should: This is 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. Suncor – 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.
Berkshire’s stake amounts to just 0.7% of Suncor’s shares outstanding, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Berkshire Hathaway’s only other investment in the energy sector is its position in oil and gas refiner and marketer Phillips 66.
Suncor also is a member of the Canadian Dividend Aristocrats by virtue of having raised its annual dividend payouts for 17 consecutive years.
Shares held: 6,353,727
Holding value: $520,688,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.25%
Torchmark (TMK, $88.42) is a small holding for Berkshire Hathaway but a natural one. After all, it’s a life and health insurance company, and various wholly owned insurance firms form the core of BRK.B’s holdings.
Berkshire Hathaway has owned shares in Torchmark since early 2001, and while it’s a boring company, it has quietly been a very good stock pick. Including dividends, TMK has generated an annualized return of 10.5% since March 30, 2001.
BRK.B owns 5.8% of Torchmark’s shares outstanding, which makes it the firm’s third-largest shareholder after Vanguard and BlackRock (BLK).
Shares held: 5,552,715
Holding value: $528,452,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.26%
After Suncor, Phillips 66 (PSX, $84.71) is Berkshire Hathaway’s only other investment in the energy sector. Buffett first bought shares in the oil and gas company in 2012. But despite having heaped praise on PSX in the past, Buffett has dramatically reduced his stake over the past year.
In the first quarter of 2018, he sold a whopping 35 million shares, reducing BRK.B’s stake by more than 40%. However, that move was simply made to avoid regulatory headaches. Indeed, the purchaser of the shares was none other than PSX.
As Buffett said at the time: “Phillips 66 is a great company with a diversified downstream portfolio and a strong management team. This transaction was solely motivated by our desire to eliminate the regulatory requirements that come with ownership levels above 10%.”
The thing is, Buffett continues to burn off Berkshire Hathaway’s PSX holdings. Even after the big sale back to PSX in the Q1 2018, BRK.B remained the company’s largest shareholder with 9.8% of all shares outstanding. But Buffett kept selling. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, he pared Berkshire’s stake by another 53%. Berkshire now owns just 1.2% of Phillips 66’s shares outstanding. Buffett has been characteristically mum on his reasons for the sales.
Shares held: 8,438,225
Holding value: $549,413,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.28%
Investors may be forgiven if they’re unfamiliar with Restaurant Brands International (QSR, $66.96). After all, it’s a pretty bland name.
But there’s no doubt they know the Canadian company’s fast-food chains.
QSR was formed by the 2014 merger of Burger King and Tim Hortons. Three years later, the company acquired Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, making it the world’s fifth-largest operator of fast food restaurants.
So where does 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.
BRK.B still owns 3.3% of the fast-food company’s shares outstanding, making it QSR’s sixth-largest investor.
Shares held: 14,166,748
Holding value: $582,395,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.29%
Berkshire Hathaway announced in October 2018 that it would take a stake in StoneCo (STNE, $27.88) as the Brazilian financial technology company went public. Given the relatively small position in STNE, and the fact that it’s a fintech company, it should come as no surprise that the position was initiated by Buffett lieutenant Todd Combs – with the Oracle of Omaha’s blessing, no doubt.
StoneCo, which provides software and hardware for companies to facilitate credit- and debit-card payments, reported an 86% jump in year-over-year first-quarter revenue to 536 million Brazilian reals, or $138.6 million, which topped Wall Street estimates. Adjusted net income soared 603% year-over-year to 186.3 million reals, or $4.8 million.
StoneCo fits well with Berkshire Hathaway’s general bullishness on companies that facilitate and process payments. “Payments are a huge deal worldwide,” Warren Buffett said at Berkshire’s 2018 shareholder meeting.
Shares held: 24,264,000
Holding value: $611,696,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.31%
Axalta Coating Systems (AXTA, $25.69), which makes industrial coatings and paints for building facades, pipelines and cars, is the belle of the ball when it comes to mergers and acquisitions suitors. The company has rejected more than one buyout bid in the past, and analysts note that it’s a perfect target for numerous global coatings companies.
Berkshire Hathaway got involved in 2015, when it purchased 20 million shares in AXTA from private equity firm Carlyle Group (CG). The stake makes sense given that Buffett is a long-time fan of the paint industry; Berkshire Hathaway bought house-paint maker Benjamin Moore in 2000.
Berkshire is Axalta’s largest investor, holding 10.3% of the shares outstanding.
Shares held: 18,621,674
Holding value: $623,826,000
It was notable when Buffett revealed Berkshire’s position in Store Capital (STOR, $34.38) in the summer of 2017. Prior to Store, real estate investment trusts (REITs) – a way to invest in real estate without owning the actual assets – were never big among Buffett stocks.
In Store’s case, it invests in single-tenant properties including chain restaurants, supermarkets, drugstores and other retail, service and distribution facilities. That’s 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 the plunge.
Berkshire Hathaway owns 18.6 million shares, which yielded almost 4% as of June 13. With a stake of 8.2%, it is Store Capital’s second-largest shareholder after Vanguard.
Shares held: 20,803,000
Holding value: $663,616,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.33%
Synchrony Financial (SYF, $34.05) jibes with Buffett’s affection for credit-card companies and banks. Synchrony, a major issuer of charge cards for retailers, was spun off of GE Capital in 2014. It’s both a lender and a payments processor – like Buffett’s beloved American Express (AXP) – but it caters to customers who skew more toward the middle and lower end of the income scale.
Berkshire initiated a position in SYF during the second quarter of 2017, paying an estimated price per share of $30.02. Over the past two years, the stock delivered a total annualized return of 11.5%.
BRK.B owns 3% of Synchrony Financial’s shares outstanding, which makes it the firm’s sixth largest shareholder.
Shares held (Class A / Class C): 19,791,000 / 7,346,968
Holding value (Class A / Class C): $493,192,000 / $177,870,000
Percent of portfolio (Total): 0.34%
As noted above with Liberty Latin America, Liberty Global Class A (LBTYA, $26.46) and Liberty Global Class C (LBTYK, $25.73) are part of a spectrum of Berkshire Hathaway holdings in communications and media companies whipped up by billionaire dealmaker John Malone.
Liberty Global bills itself as the world’s largest international TV and broadband company, with operations in 10 European countries. Berkshire’s investment in the Class A shares dates to the fourth quarter of 2013. It picked up the Class C shares, which have no voting power, in the first quarter of 2014.
Between the Class A and Class C shares, Berkshire Hathaway owns a 3.7% stake in Liberty Global, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. And the holding company is Liberty’s eighth-largest shareholder.
Shares held: 43,249,295
Holding value: $678,149,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.34%
When Berkshire Hathaway revealed it took a stake in Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA, $9.08) in the fourth quarter of 2017, it looked like a classic Warren Buffett value move.
The Israel-based drug manufacturer was out of favor – to put it mildly. A bloated balance sheet, mass layoffs and the looming expiration of drug patents had short sellers licking their chops.
By the time Buffett stepped in, Teva shares were off about 70% from their mid-2015 peak. Berkshire then doubled his stake in Teva during the first quarter of 2018, when shares looked really cheap.
They look even cheaper now. Teva, which has lost nearly half its value since the start of Q2 2018, trades at just a bit more than three times analysts’ estimates for future earnings – a fraction of the S&P 500’s forward P/E. Meanwhile, BRK.B owns 4% of Teva’s shares outstanding.
Shares held: 137,915,729
Holding value: $781,982,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.39%
Sirius XM (SIRI, $5.49) – a company that reaches more than 100 million listeners via its core satellite radio business and Pandora, which it acquired in 2018 – is another stock pick related to John Malone. Malone is chairman of Liberty Media, which owns a massive stake in Sirius XM.
As Kiplinger has noted, 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.
Berkshire first bought shares in SIRI during the final quarter of 2016. Berkshire’s 3% stake in the company makes it Sirius XM’s second-largest shareholder after Liberty Media, which owns almost 69% of the shares outstanding.
Shares held: 5,958,391
Holding value: $817,253,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.41%
Few Buffett stocks are such natural fits as Travelers (TRV, $149.19), the blue-chip insurance giant. Insurance, after all, is the holding company’s core business. In addition to TRV, Berkshire Hathaway has a stake in insurer Torchmark and counts numerous insurer companies as wholly owned subsidiaries. Geico, General Re and United States Liability Insurance Group are just three companies BRK.B owns as part of its sprawling insurance empire.
And Travelers, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average with a modest dividend yield of 2.2%, has the kind of pedigree and income stream Buffett favors.
Berkshire Hathaway first took a position in Travelers in the third quarter of 2018, then boosted its stake by 68% in the fourth quarter. BRK.B now holds almost 6 million shares in TRV.
At less than $1 billion, the stake is relatively small beer for Berkshire Hathaway, but it’s a big deal to Travelers. Buffett’s holding company is Travelers’ seventh-largest shareholder, owning 2.3% of all shares outstanding.
Shares held: 5,382,040
Holding value: $845,088,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.42%
As we shall see, Warren Buffett has been initiating positions in several bank stocks over the past few quarters, but he’s been a fan of M&T Bank (MTB, $167.76) for a very long time. Indeed, MTB has been a member in good standing of Berkshire Hathaway’s equity portfolio since 2001.
The regional bank operates about 750 branches in eight 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.
Although M&T Bank represents a small portion of Berkshire Hathaway’s equity portfolio, BRK.B is a big holder of MTB. With 3.9% of shares outstanding, Berkshire is the bank’s sixth-largest shareholder.
Shares held: 483,300
Holding value: $860,637,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.43%
Amazon.com (AMZN, $1,863.70) is Berkshire Hathaway’s splashiest new stock pick. The holding company disclosed it initiated a position of 483,300 shares in the first quarter of 2019.
It wasn’t Buffett’s idea, though.
The clue? Before Berkshire Hathaway submitted its first-quarter regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Buffett told CNBC: “One of the fellows in the office that manage money ... bought some Amazon, so it will show up (when that file is submitted).”
Buffett has long been an admirer of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, he admitted in an interview, and said he wished he’d bought the stock sooner.
“Yeah, I’ve been a fan, and I’ve been an idiot for not buying” AMZN shares, Buffett told CNBC. Berkshire owns less than 0.01% of Amazon’s shares outstanding.
Shares held: 5,110,471
Holding value: $933,683,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.47%
In another investment most likely made by one of Buffett’s lieutenants, Berkshire Hathaway first took a stake in Red Hat (RHT, $185.04) in the fourth quarter of 2018. Buffett himself tends to shy away from technology stocks such as Red Hat, which is an open-source software company, and the comparatively small stake of less than $1 billion is another clue.
What’s really intriguing about the position in Red Hat is that the company agreed to be acquired by International Business Machines (IBM) for $34 billion in October 2018. The deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year, is intended to boost Big Blue’s cloud-based services business.
Ironically, IBM is one of Warren Buffett’s most high-profile bad bets. The usually tech-shy investor surprised Wall Street when Berkshire Hathaway revealed in 2011 that it scooped up nearly $11 billion worth of Big Blue. Buffett added to the stake in the ensuing years before souring on IBM in 2017. Berkshire eventually sold its entire position. However, if Berkshire retains its Red Hat position, it will once again be an IBM shareholder when the deal closes.
Shares held: 4,333,363
Holding value: $1,049,281,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.53%
Costco (COST, $257.11) joined the ranks of the Buffett stocks a long time back – the first quarter of 2001, to be precise. So while Costco is not a particularly large holding, at just more than half a percent of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio, it’s a seemingly cherished one.
And it’s a company Buffett is happy to chat about at length.
"Here (Kraft Heinz) are, 100 years plus, tons of advertising, built into people's habits and everything else," Buffett told CNBC in a February 2019 interview. "And now, Kirkland, a private label brand, comes along and with only 250 or so outlets, does 50% more business than all the Kraft Heinz brands."
Indeed, Costco’s Kirkland store-branded products are one of the warehouse retailer’s biggest draws. Revenues from the Kirkland label totaled $39 billion last year – more than 27% of Costco’s overall annual sales, and about 50% greater than Kraft Heinz’s total sales across 2018.
Berkshire’s 4.3 million shares represent a roughly 1% equity stake in the company – not unsubstantial, but well outside Costco’s top 10 institutional stakes.
Shares held: 8,671,054
Holding value: $1,063,591,000
PNC Financial Services (PNC, $135.18), the nation’s sixth-largest bank by assets and second-largest regional lender, is part of a big recent bet by Buffett on the financial sector.
Buffett first started investing in PNC in the third quarter of 2018. He upped Berkshire Hathaway’s stake by another 4% in Q1 2019. The holding company is now PNC’s ninth-largest investor with 1.9% of the bank’s shares outstanding.
Buffett has 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.” Given Berkshire’s big push into banks over the past few quarters – BRK.B has added to or started new positions in more than a half-dozen financial stocks recently – Buffett clearly sees a lot of value in this corner of the market.
Shares in PNC were up 10.4% on a price basis alone over the six months ended June 11, vs. a gain of 9.4% for the S&P 500. Add in the dividend, and PNC has returned 12.1% during that span.
Shares held: 4,934,756
Holding value: $1,161,888,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.58%
Warren Buffett credits Berkshire Hathaway’s investment in Mastercard (MA, $263.66) to his portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, and he wishes he had pulled the trigger on the opportunity earlier.
“I could have bought them as well, and looking back, I should have,” Buffett said about Visa (V) and Mastercard in 2019, referring to his own investment in American Express.
As noted above with StoneCo, Buffett is a big believer in companies that process payments.
Berkshire Hathaway initiated its position in Mastercard during the first quarter of 2011, and given the stock’s performance ever since, it’s obvious why Buffett wishes Berkshire Hathaway owned more. Including dividends, MA shares have generated an annualized return of 35.4% since March 31, 2011.
Shares held: 43,700,000
Holding value: $1,387,912,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.70%
Warren Buffett isn’t afraid to change his mind, and perhaps his most surprising volte-face came in regard to the airline industry. Buffett long excoriated the sector, calling it a “death trap” for investors.
“If a capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk back in the early 1900s he should’ve shot Orville Wright; he would have saved his progeny money,” Buffett once wrote.
But airline stocks became Buffett stocks in 2016. That’s when he started picking up stakes in four major carriers, including American Airlines (AAL, $30.58). Years of industry consolidation and Buffett’s confidence in the U.S. economy’s long-term dynamism finally made the time ripe for Berkshire Hathaway to buy.
“It’s true that the airlines had a bad 20th century. They’re like the Chicago Cubs. And they got that bad century out of the way, I hope,” he told CNBC.
Berkshire Hathaway initiated a stake in AAL in the third quarter of 2016. Buffett has been an incremental seller ever since to remain below a 10% ownership threshold that would trigger regulatory headaches. Berkshire Hathaway is American’s second-largest shareholder with 9.8% of the firm’s shares outstanding.
Shares held: 10,562,460
Holding value: $1,649,750,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.83%
Like Mastercard, Visa (V, $170.31) was the idea of lieutenants Todd Combs and/or Ted Weschler (Buffett won’t tell). And as with Mastercard, Buffett wishes BRK.B had bought more. Visa operates the world’s largest payments network, and thus is well-positioned to benefit from the growth of cashless transactions and digital mobile payments.
Berkshire Hathaway first bought Visa in the third quarter of 2011, and it has proven to be a winner of a stock pick. Including dividends, Visa has delivered a whopping annualized return of almost 31% since August 31, 2011.
“If I had been as smart as Ted or Todd, I would have (bought Visa),” Buffett told shareholders at the 2018 annual meeting.
Berkshire owns 0.5% of Visa’s shares outstanding, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Shares held: 39,002,016
Holding value: $1,688,787,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.85%
At the 2017 annual meeting, Buffett conceded that Berkshire’s investment in USG – also known as United States Gypsum Corporation – wasn’t great, but neither was it a disaster. Berkshire picked up the shares cheap in 2001 shortly before the company declared bankruptcy due to the mounting asbestos liability.
“USG, overall, has just been disappointing because the gypsum business has been disappointing,” Buffett said.
But Berkshire Hathaway shareholders won’t have to worry about the maker of drywall and joint compound anymore. The stock no longer trades following the April completion of the company’s acquisition by privately held Knauf.
Shares held: 21,938,642
Holding value: $1,750,265,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.88%
United Continental (UAL, $82.77) is one of the four major airline stocks that Buffett bought during the third quarter of 2016 when he surprised the market with his about-face on the industry.
Less than a year later, it represented something of a black eye when a passenger was injured while being removed against his will from a sold-out flight. But United has recovered from that reputational hit, in part simply because there are so few options that boast its geographical reach.
As noted above with American Airlines, Buffett thinks air carriers today offer much better growth prospects than they did in the last century, which was a bloodbath for capital.
Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio holds 8.3% of UAL shares outstanding, making it the airline’s second-largest shareholder. United’s stock has delivered an annualized total return of 21% since the end of Q3 2016.
Shares held (Class A / Class C): 14,860,360 / 31,090,985
Holding value (Class A / Class C): $567,369,000 / $1,188,920,000
Percent of portfolio (Total): 0.88%
Sirius XM is the company so nice, Buffett needs to own it twice. Well, thrice. Sort of.
When dealing with John Malone’s companies, it gets complicated.
Liberty Media 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 exposed to Sirius XM before it directly invested in SIRI shares in Q4 2016. But over time, he has bought more of the tracking stock, which currently represents a 70.4% stake in Sirius XM. The Berkshire Hathaway portfolio now holds roughly 46 million shares of Liberty Sirius XM Group Series A (LSXMA, $36.26) and Liberty Sirius XM Group Series C (LSXMK, $36.43) combined.
In fact, Warren Buffett is the largest institutional shareholder in each class, holding 4.5% of Liberty Sirius XM’s A shares, and 14.4% of the C shares. Combined with his SIRI stake, the Oracle of Omaha holds three different investments in Sirius XM.
Shares held: 5,710,711
Holding value: $1,981,103,000
Percent of portfolio: 0.99%
Charter Communications (CHTR, $391.64) is yet another Berkshire Hathaway portfolio holding with a John Malone connection – albeit a small one now. Malone served on the telecom and media company’s board of directors from 2013 until 2018, when he stepped down to concentrate his focus on a smaller group of companies. (He does remain a director emeritus, however.)
Charter Communications 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 206 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 5.7 million shares as of Berkshire’s most recent 13-F. The move away from Charter meshed with a lousy 2018 for the stock, which lost 15% that year, though Buffett dropped another fifth of his position in Q1 2019 – during which CHTR roared ahead by nearly 22%.
The current stake represents about 1% of Berkshire Hathaway’s holdings, and a decent-sized 2.5% ownership in Charter.