Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway juggles oil holdings as it tweaked its US stock portfolio

OMAHA, Neb. – Warren Buffett’s company disclosed a new stake of 40 million Exxon Mobil Corp. shares Thursday and revealed that it further cut its ConocoPhillips investment during the third quarter.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. filed a quarterly update on its $92 billion U.S. stock portfolio Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The two oil company investments were the biggest changes.

Berkshire reduced its ConocoPhillips holdings to 13.5 million shares at the end of September, down from 24.2 million shares in June.

The quarterly filings don’t differentiate between investments Buffett himself makes and those made by other Berkshire executives.

Officials at the Omaha-based company Buffett leads as chairman and CEO did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but they don’t typically comment on Berkshire’s stock holdings beyond what they are legally required to disclose.

But the size of the Exxon investment — worth $3.7 billion at Thursday’s closing price — suggests it was Buffett’s decision. Buffett has said investments smaller than $300 million are likely to be the work of other Berkshire managers.

Berkshire invested in Exxon once before in recent years, but it didn’t hang onto that stock long after accumulating 1.3 million shares in late 2009.

Berkshire said in filings that it began buying Exxon shares during the second quarter as it built up 40.1 million shares by the end of September. Thursday’s filings don’t indicate whether Berkshire continued buying Exxon stock in the past six weeks.

Buffett has said he made a mistake in 2008 when he bought 84.9 million shares of ConocoPhillips stock, when oil and gas prices were near their peak. He has said that investment cost Berkshire several billion dollars because he didn’t anticipate the dramatic fall in energy prices that followed.

Berkshire has been gradually selling off its ConocoPhillips shares ever since it wrote down their value.

But Buffett and Berkshire’s two other investment managers — Todd Combs and Ted Weschler — clearly see value in the oil business. Besides ConocoPhillips and Exxon, Berkshire also holds investments in refiner Phillips 66 and oil and gas industry supplier National Oilwell Varco Inc. that didn’t change in the quarter.

Besides the oil business moves, Berkshire made several other changes in its stock holdings, including:

—Cutting its stake in British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC to 345,819 shares from nearly 1.5 million.

—Increasing its Suncor Energy Inc. investment to more than 18 million shares from 17.8 million.

—Reducing its stake in French pharmaceutical group Sanofi to 3.9 million shares from 4.1 million.

—Adding to its already sizeable U.S. Bancorp investment to give Berkshire 79.1 million shares, up from 78.3 million.

Besides investments, Berkshire owns more than 80 subsidiaries in a variety of industries, including insurance, utilities, railroads, retail and manufacturing.



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