Freddie Mac Stock: Why Warren Buffett Sold His Shares

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac grab headlines, and Warren Buffett has reveled why he sold his position that was once worth $3.9 billion.

Jul 25, 2014 at 2:11PM

President Obama Meets With Warren Buffett In The Oval Office
Warren Buffett and President Barack Obama. 

Think you've heard everything about Fannie Mae (NASDAQOTCBB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTCBB:FMCC)? Wait until you here why Warren Buffett unloaded the Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B) stake that was once worth nearly $4 billion.

The continual push
In recent years many big name investors -- including Bruce Berkowitz, Carl Icahn, and Bill Ackman -- with billions at their disposal have weighed in on what they believe the government should do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. After all, the companies still sit in limbo as they are controlled by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and return every dime they earn back to the Treasury.

But this isn't a secret. The first sentence of the annual report of Fannie Mae reads:

We have been under conservatorship, with the Federal Housing Finance Agency ("FHFA") acting as conservator, since September 6, 2008. As conservator, FHFA succeeded to all rights, titles, powers and privileges of the company, and of any shareholder, officer or director of the company with respect to the company and its assets.

Yet many are still willing to fight for it and suggest change is coming and the best days are ahead for the two government sponsored entities.

The massive position
With all that in mind, it's natural to wonder what Buffett thinks. And while he's given us the answer for how he feels about Fannie and Freddie currently, as shown in the video below, Buffett has also discussed why he unloaded his stake in Freddie Mac nearly 15 years ago.

At one point he owned nearly 9% of it, and by 1998, his position had climbed to have a market value of $3.9 billion, representing a return of almost 1200%:

Source: Company investor relations.

But as you can see, that position came to abrupt end, as he noted bluntly in his letter, "in 2000, we sold nearly all of our Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae shares."

So why did he do it? Freddie Mac became too focused on quarterly results, took on too much risk, and more. When he saw these things he noted, "I figure if you see just one cockroach, there's probably a lot."

The lesson learned here extends well beyond Fannie and Freddie, revealing investors must always be aware of those things both great and small at the companies they invest in, as a small sign of trouble can be just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet as it relates to Fannie and Freddie, Buffett notes they were trying to serve the mandates of Congress and the demands of Wall Street, and "that's a tough balancing act." Undeniably that balancing act has ended and now leans exclusive to the side of the government.

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Patrick Morris owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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