Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate led by billionaire Warren Buffett, announced it had sold its stakes in General Motors (GM) and Procter & Gamble (P&G), as well as reducing its stake in Amazon by 5%. According to the regulatory filing disclosing its US-listed equity investments as at September 30, GM and P&G shares, previously valued at $848 million and $48 million in June, no longer appear in the portfolio. Berkshire also appears to have disposed of its $621 million stake in Celanese, a specialty materials company.
The firm acquired a new position with an $8 million stake in Atlanta Braves Holdings, which indirectly controls the Atlanta Braves baseball team and The Battery Atlanta mixed-use real estate complex. This acquisition follows the Braves' spin-off from Liberty Media, another Berkshire investment, in July.
156.8 billion in cash
Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire's equity portfolio stood at $318.6 billion at September 30. During the third quarter, the company sold $7 billion worth of shares, including a significant portion of its investment in Chevron, and bought only $1.7 billion. This period was marked by a drop in the value of its shares, notably Apple, whose share price fell by 12%.
Over the full year 2023, Berkshire sold $23.6 billion more shares than it bought, contributing to the increase in its cash reserve, which is now equivalent to its $156.8 billion stake in the iPhone maker.
The regulatory filing does not specify which investments are attributable to Buffett or his portfolio managers, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, or the reasons for these capital movements. Large investments are usually Buffett's, and investors tend to follow in Berkshire's footsteps, given Buffett's reputation as one of the world's largest investors.
Berkshire has also chosen not to disclose some of its investments, requesting confidential treatment from the SEC. In the past, the company has requested such confidentiality for major investments, such as those in IBM and Exxon Mobil over ten years ago, which are no longer part of its current assets.
Among other third-quarter sales, Berkshire finalized its exit from video game developer Activision Blizzard, recently acquired by Microsoft, and reduced its stake in life insurer Globe Life. The company also sold around two-thirds of its stake in the Markel Group, a notable change given that in recent years some investors had regarded this insurance and investment company as a "mini-Berkshire".
Warren Buffett, 93, has run Berkshire Hathaway since 1965. His conglomerate also owns dozens of companies in various sectors, including auto insurer Geico, railroad BNSF, energy and industrial companies, as well as consumer brands such as Benjamin Moore, Dairy Queen, Duracell, Fruit of the Loom and See's Candies.
The increase in Berkshire Hathaway's cash position raises questions about the company's future investment strategies, particularly in an uncertain economic climate. Analysts are speculating about possible major acquisitions or share buy-backs, moves typical of Warren Buffett's strategy. This cash reserve could also act as a buffer against market fluctuations, enabling Berkshire to navigate more easily through periods of volatility. Berkshire's investment decisions are closely scrutinized by the financial community, as they can signal trends and opportunities in various sectors of the economy.