If the markets had to identify the current greatest investors of modern times, Warren Buffett would almost certainly be at the top of the list. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) is now worth more than $410 billion, making Buffett’s company the largest conglomerate of them all.
One popular trend among investors is “whale watching.” This is where investors follow the greatest fund managers and independent investor picks. Unfortunately, a whale watching session of Buffett’s top stock holdings brings a very mixed view of what investors might expect ahead.
24/7 Wall St. has followed Buffett’s top stock holdings for years now. We have shown the current prices and what the value of each stake was at the end of the first quarter versus the $161 billion or so of the total portfolio. We also have shown a percentage gain or loss on each stake so far in 2017, and compared the current share price to the consensus analyst target price from Thomson Reuters.
Approximately 65% of the total equities portfolio was concentrated in the equity securities of five companies. This was $12 billion for American Express, $19.2 billion in Apple, $17 billion in Coca-Cola, $11.2 billion in IBM and $27.8 billion in Wells Fargo. The largest stake is actually in Kraft Heinz at $29.5 billion.
Berkshire Hathaway held 26.7% of the outstanding shares of Kraft Heinz Co. (NASDAQ: KHC) common stock as it invested with 3G into the food giant. The carrying value of this investment was approximately $15.4 billion at March 31, 2017, but the market value of the shares was just over $29.5 billion at that time. Trading at $92.50 on June 8, it has a consensus analyst target price of $90.29.
American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) has been the same 151.61 million shares for many years, a position that remains perpetually static. Buffett has owned Amex for so long it may be cheaper for him to just hold rather than pay capital gains. With shares at $79.90 on June 8, Amex’s consensus price target is $83.44.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was already a larger stake at the end of 2016, but we knew Buffett had increased it to 129.357 million shares. The prior Apple stake was 57,359,652 shares, up from just 15.227 million in the prior quarter. Apple shares were at $154.85 on June 8, but the consensus target price is now $157.36 and its 52-week high is $156.65.
Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) was the exact same stake of 400 million shares at the end of the first quarter, a size that has remained static and been defended by Buffett for years. Coca-Cola was trading at $45.20 on June 8, versus a consensus analyst price target of $45.50.
International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) was a stake that Buffett already telegraphed selling down, and the March 31, 2017, stake was 64.56 million shares. The stake had previously been 81.232 million shares at the end of 2016. IBM’s share price of $152.00 on June 8 is down handily from the $182.79 high of the past year, but it is still about 10% shy of the $165.07 consensus analyst target.
Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) is a stake of 479,704,270 shares, the same count it has been since last September — and Buffett did not sell any Wells Fargo shares after the account-opening scandal and during the Stumpf exit. At $52.90 on June 8, Wells Fargo is down about 12% from its 52-week high and is well under the $57.59 consensus target price.
Wells Fargo and IBM have pulled back to where the consensus analyst price targets look better than the performance might indicate. Other than that, Apple, Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz and Amex all have current share prices rather close to their consensus analyst target prices.