Warren Buffett and the rest of Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) stock-picking team were net buyers of stocks during the second quarter, to the tune of about $3 billion. However, there was some pretty significant selling activity as well -- Berkshire sold some Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX), Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR), and more.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Aug. 20, 2018.
Shannon Jones: Buffett also had some notable sells this quarter, as well. He closed out of a position and trimmed a few back. What exactly did he scale back on?
Matt Frankel: Well, first of all, it's important to note that Buffett was a net buyer of stocks. His buys totaled about $3 billion more than his sells. It still looks like he's positive on the market in general. The sell that stuck out the most to me was Phillips 66. This is a position that Buffett sold several billion dollars' worth of a couple of quarters ago. He made a point to say that the only reason he was getting rid of it was to keep his stake below 10% to avoid regulatory issues. And he made a point to say that he planned on holding the stock for the long-term. Well, fast forward to now. It looks like that might not be the case anymore, because Buffett unloaded $1.3 billion worth of Phillips 66, after he just recently said he planned to hold it for the long-term. I found that one particularly interesting. I wonder what changed there.
In addition to that, he sold about $200 million worth of Charter Communications. Still has a pretty substantial position. He sold some United Airlines and American Airlines, possibly to offset the increased stakes in Southwest and Delta. So, he's bought two airlines and sold the other two.
He sold about $260 million worth of Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC). Don't make the mistake of reading into that too much. Buffett did not sell Wells Fargo because he has any issue with a business. This is another issue where he wants to maintain a stake under 10% to be regulatory compliant. Berkshire owns about 9.3% of Wells Fargo right now. Buffett also owns some shares in his personal portfolio. To remain under the 10% threshold as Wells Fargo buys back some of its own stock, Buffett needs to sell some of Berkshire's shares to keep his stake proportionally low. This is a very small amount. Even though it says it's $260 million, it's less than 1% of Berkshire's Wells Fargo holdings.
It's not because of the scandals or anything to do with the bank's business itself. Buffett has said time and time again that he believes in Wells Fargo. He recently said he thinks it's going to be the best of the big four banks over the next decade or so. This is not Buffett losing faith in Wells Fargo. It's simply a housekeeping matter to keep his stake under 10%.
He did close out one position, Verisk. But that was a very small investment. I really don't see that as significant, in terms of what Buffett's buying and selling. It was less than $30 million, I believe, which in Berkshire terms is nothing.
Those are the big sales, just to run past them. Phillips 66, ticker symbol PSX, if you don't know. Charter Communications, CHTR. The two airlines, United and American Airlines, to offset the ones he bought, UIL and AAL. And Wells Fargo, but I don't really count that as a sale, it's just a technicality. Those are the big sales, that's a rundown of his big sales.
Jones: I think you highlighted a big point, particularly when investors start following 13-F filings. Love to track Berkshire Hathaway. There are many other fund managers and portfolios, but when it comes to 13-F filings, it's important that an investor understands the why someone is trimming back a position. To your point, Matt, it may not necessarily be because of something happening with the business, per se. It may be really because they want to keep the position under a certain amount for regulatory reasons. And there may be a whole host of other reasons. It's really important to dig into the numbers and not just go after the headlines.
Matthew Frankel, CFP® owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). Shannon Jones has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Verisk Analytics. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Southwest Airlines. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.