If bank earnings are not a good enough story on a strong day, imagine the reaction to news reports that Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) want to buy or increase a stake in a company. A day ahead of the company’s own earnings report, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) was trading higher on a news report from Bloomberg that Buffett has asked the Federal Reserve for permission to increase his stake above the mandated 10% threshold.
The move looks massive on paper, but frankly it should already have been anticipated. 24/7 Wall St. has reported that Buffett’s financial ambitions have only grown in size and scope, and earlier this year we showed that Buffett is likely more interested in buying more bank shares than he is in buying back his own Berkshire Hathaway shares.
The Federal Reserve previously released proposed rules to loosen the investment thresholds in banks. At the time, we noted that it was not clear that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also would ease filing requirements if any passive investors such as Berkshire Hathaway invested into the banks. The move was allowed in the proposal so long as more than there were not one-fourth of directors placed by an investment group and there were no other strict business ties and thresholds met, then companies may be able to own up to 24.99% in certain circumstances.
Berkshire Hathaway is the top Bank of America shareholder, with a 9.96% stake. That was valued at almost $27 billion for the 927.2 or more million share stake as of June 30.
In the past, Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) would have been a stake that Buffett might have increased his bets into. That was pre-scandal and pre-capping of the deposit assets. Still, Berkshire Hathaway was a 9.3% stakeholder of Wells Fargo, with a 409.8 million share as of June 30, 2019.
Other banks and financially related companies are key stakes of Berkshire Hathaway.
American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) has been the same at 151.61 million share stake for many years. That stake was more than 18% as of June 30, 2019.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is still a relatively new stake, but Buffett could acquire all the stock he wants to there. The Berkshire stake of 59.51 million shares was not even 2% as of June 30, 2019.
Many other bank and bank-related stocks are held by Berkshire Hathaway as of 2019, including Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, PNC Financial Services and U.S. Bancorp.
It’s unknown if Buffett is really looking to acquire more shares in Bank of America or whether the request for the 10% threshold can be breached if it is from the bank buying back more of its stock. In the past, Buffett had said he wanted to avoid the 10% stake threshold that is a longstanding SEC rule for disclosures and restrictions.