Warren Buffett warns on US inflation
New York (CNN Business)Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has been a top investor in Wells Fargo for the past few years, despite the company’s fake account scandal, overcharging foreign-exchange customers and myriad other problems.
Now, the Oracle of Omaha has finally thrown in the towel.
Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB) disclosed late Monday that it sold its remaining stake in Wells Fargo (WFC) during the first quarter, according to the conglomerate’s latest filing of holdings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Shares of Wells Fargo rallied with other bank stocks Tuesday, however.
Berkshire still owned a tiny stake in Wells Fargo as of the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, but had been cutting the position gradually since 2019. Many Berkshire investors had been pressuring the company to sell all its holdings in the bank, arguing that its continuing problems were a stain on Berkshire.
Critics of Wells Fargo often cited Buffett’s comments during a 1991 congressional hearing about issues with Wall Street investment bank Salomon Brothers. Buffett was an investor in Salomon at the time and later became its chairman following a bond trading scandal that led to the ouster of several top executives.
“Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless,” Buffett said during the hearing.
Berkshire may now be done with Wells Fargo, but the company is still invested in many other big banks and financial firms. Bank of America (BAC) and American Express (AXP) are currently two of Berkshire’s top four stock holdings. Buffett’s company also owns insurance giant Geico and several other financial services subsidiaries.
Berkshire also made a new purchase of more than 55 million shares in Wells Fargo rival Citigroup (C) during the first quarter, a stake worth about $3 billion as of the end of the quarter. Shares of Citigroup surged nearly 8% on the news. Berkshire bought a smaller stake in Ally Financial (ALLY) during the quarter.
Buffett runs the portfolio with two other top Berkshire investment managers, Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, who is also the CEO of Geico. This triumvirate is shaking up Berkshire’s investments.
In addition to its stakes in Citigroup and Ally, Berkshire also bought new positions in CBS owner Paramount Global, chemicals company Celanese (CE), healthcare giant McKesson (MCK) and insurer Markel (MKL) during the quarter. Shares of all four stocks were up Tuesday, with Paramount soaring 14% and Celanese gaining 8%.
Berkshire slashed its position in telecom giant Verizon (VZ) as well and now only holds a small stake in the firm. Verizon’s stock was flat.
Berkshire also confirmed some previously disclosed investments in the SEC filing that Buffett discussed at Berkshire’s shareholder meeting at the end of April, including a boost to its stakes in oil giants Chevron (CVX) and Occidental Petroleum (OXY) and a bigger bet on Activision Blizzard (ATVI), the video game maker that Microsoft (MSFT) plans to buy.
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