Buffett Sells PetroChina Shares for the Sixth Time

U.S. investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has sold shares in top Asian oil and gas producer PetroChina for the sixth time since July, slashing its holding by nearly half overall to cash in on a lucrative holding.

Berkshire cut its holding in China's largest oil producer most recently on Sept. 25, selling $362 million worth of shares in the company, according to stock exchange data released on Tuesday. It unloaded 220.5 million shares at an average price of HK$12.80 apiece.

Buffett's firm has now trimmed its stake in PetroChina to 5.44% of the firm's free-floating shares from a previous 11.05% before the successive sales kicked off on July 12.

Analysts, speculating that Buffett was cashing out of a stock that hit a record high last week, said his actions might also be informed by pressure over the activities of PetroChina's parent company in Sudan, whose government has been accused of genocide by the White House.

"He's being pressured by the human rights activists about PetroChina's parent's involvement in Sudan," said Gordan Kwan, director of China Oil and Gas Research of CLSA. "He may sell all by the end of this month."

But Kwan added: "The stock still holds up very well because PetroChina will have the A-share IPO."

Berkshire built up its stake in what has become the world's second most valuable oil company, behind ExxonMobil , in April 2003 at an average price of about HK$1.60 a share, indicating it made a return on the shares it sold of more than 600%.

Buffett this year rejected a Berkshire shareholder's proposal to sell the entire PetroChina stake because of the parent company's ties to Sudan. That decision also won support at a shareholder's meeting in May.

Shares in PetroChina ended up 1.28% on Tuesday after rising about 25% in the month through Monday.