Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway was doing some selling in last year's fourth quarter.
Based on the fact that the eliminated positions were worth less than $300 million or so, my guess is that some or all of them had been managed by Lou Simpson, the GEICO stockpicker who retired at the end of last year.
While GEICO is a Berkshire subsidiary, Simpson operated independently of Buffett.
In his 2004 letter to shareholders, Buffett wrote, "Customarily (Simpson's) purchases are in the $200-$300 million range and are in companies that are smaller than the ones I focus on."
We do know, because Buffett told us in April of 2009, that Simpson was responsible for Berkshire's Bank of America stake.
The stocks eliminated in this latest filing are:
- Bank of America
Sold 5,000,000 shares with current value of $74.45 million.
Sold 186,897 shares with current value of $4.2 million.
Sold 3,642,929 shares with current value of $312.5 million.
Sold 3,910,800 shares with current value of $244.4 million.
- Nalco Holding
Sold 6,142,300 shares with current value of $164.5 million.
- Lowes Companies
Sold 6,500,000 shares with current value of $163.6 million.
- Becton Dickinson
Sold 1,889,889 shares with current value of $154.2 million.
Sold 3,400,000 shares with a current value of $181.6 million.
Total current value of the eliminated stakes is about $1.3 billion. (Perhaps contributing a portion of the $2 billion to $3 billion expected to be managedby Berkshire newcomer Todd Combs.)
Berkshire's holdings of Wells Fargo increased by 2 percent to 342.6 million shares. At today's closing price, that stake would be worth $11.6 billion.
There are decreases for holdings of two stocks:
- Bank of New York Mellon
Sold 198,844 shares, or 10 percent of stake. Remaining shares worth $57.4 million.
Sold 458,506 shares, or 2 percent of stake. Remaining shares worth $866.7 million.
Thanks the stock market's gains in the fourth quarter, the market value of Berkshire's reported stock portfolio increased to $52.6 billion as of December 31, compared to $48.6 billion as of September 30, 2010.
Current Berkshire stock prices: