Warren Buffett's Berkshire Slashes Oil, P&G, J&J Stakes


Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway dramatically cut its stakes last fall in two of the nation's biggest oil companies.

It also significantly reduced its holdings of Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.

The sales were probably designed to help pay for Berkshire's enormous $26 billion acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe. That deal closed last Friday.

In its fourth quarter portfolio snapshot just filed with the SEC, Berkshire reports holding 37.7 million shares of ConocoPhillips as of December 31, 2009.

That's down 19.7 million shares, or 34.3 percent, from Berkshire's holdings as of September 30.

Berkshire's stake in ExxonMobil fell even more on a percentage basis, dropping 67 percent to 421,800 shares as of Dec 31. Berkshire first reported holding about 854-thousand shares at the end of last year's second quarter. It then added another 422-thousand shares in the third quarter for a total of almost 1.3 million shares. Now only those shares added in Q3 remain as of the end of Q4.

Another significant decline: Johnson and Johnson . Berkshire's holdings fell 26.5 percent, or 9.8 million shares, to 27.1 million shares. That's roughly the same amount Berkshire held at the end of 2008, following a big sale that fall to help finance Buffett's credit-crisis investments in Goldman Sachs and General Electric.

Berkshire cut its Procter and Gamble holdings by 8.8 million shares, or 9.1 percent, to 87.5 million shares.

Berkshire also reports smaller holdings as of December 31 vs September 30 for:

  • Carmax: 8 million shares, down 1 million from 9 million (-11.1%)
  • Gannett: 2.2 million shares, down 1.2 million from 3.4 million (-36.1%)
  • Ingersoll-Rand: 5.6 million shares, down 2.2 million from 7.8 million (-27.6%)
  • SunTrust Banks: 2.4 million shares, down 0.7 million from 3.1 million (-22.1%)
  • United Health Group: 1.2 million shares, down 2.2 million from 3.4 million (-65.4%)

Berkshire's sales of its entire holdings of Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern had been reported by Buffett himself in an interview with Charlie Rose just after the BNSF deal was announced.

It wasn't just selling. We did see some increases, including a few enormous percentage jumps.

  • Becton Dickinson: 1.5 million shares, up 0.3 million from 1.2 million (+25.0%)
  • Iron Mountain: 7.0 million shares, up 3.6 million from 3.4 million (+107.6%)
  • Republic Services: 8.3 million shares, up 4.7 million from 3.6 million (+128.7%)
  • Wal-Mart Stores: 39.0 million shares, up 1.2 million from 37.8 million (+3.2%)
  • Wells Fargo: 320.1 million shares, up 6.7 million from 313.4 million (+2.1%)

Total market value of Berkshire's reported holdings as of December 31: $57.9 billion, up $1.4 billion from $56.5 billion as of September 30. That's an increase of 2.4 percent.

Current Berkshire stock prices:


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