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Is Buffett Making a Statement or Making Money with PetroChina Sale?

Wednesday, 12 Sep 2007 | 9:32 AM ET

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has sold some more of its stake in PetroChina. Berkshire shed about $136 million worth of stock in China's big oil producer .. at a profit of more than 600 percent over what he paid back in 2003. He still has a stake of just over 9.7%, down from 10.2%.

The question is: Is Buffett selling for the profits or to make a statement against China's human-rights record in Darfur?

The Reuters story on CNBC.com casts it as profit-taking. It quotes Imperial Dragon Asset Management's Dale Tsang as saying, "He's selling into strength. He's taking his chips off the table slowly. PetroChina isn't a growth story anymore. A lot has been priced in already."

After Berkshire sold $17 million worth of PetroChina back in July, there were some suggestions Buffett was responding to human-rights activists calling on him to divest because, they argue, Chinese investments in Sudan's oil industry are helping that country resist international pressure over the killings in Darfur.

Profits or pressure? We certainly don't know for sure, but in the past Buffett has said PetroChina has nothing to do with Darfur. If I had to guess, I'd guess profits are the prime motivator.. but doing the "right thing" probably doesn't hurt.

Questions? Comments? Email me at buffettwatch@cnbc.com

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