Warren Buffett Comes Clean on Kinder Morgan Purchase -- It Was Not Me!

courtesy of Kinder Morgan Inc.

Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) has seen its shares rise handily since it was disclosed that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) bought a decent-sized stake. After all, having Warren Buffett as a new shareholder goes a long way for advertising value. So what happens when investors find out that it wasn’t really Buffett who bought the shares?

In a CNBC interview with Becky Quick, Buffett confessed that he was also surprised about the Kinder Morgan stake. It turns out that this stake was purchased by either Ted Weschler or Todd Combs, his two new portfolio managers.

It may seem odd that Buffett would say “I was also surprised” about anything that Berkshire Hathaway owned. The issue now is that the portfolio managers can commit somewhere in the range of $200 million to $400 million (or thereabouts) without having to have discussions with Buffett. The value of this 26.533 million shares was $392.4 million as of December 31, 2015.

Quick asked whether it was Weschler or Combs who made the share purchase in Kinder Morgan. Buffett would not say which one of them did what in their trading accounts. They run two portfolios and get paid based on how those do. Buffett then said he’s never told them to buy or sell anything. Buffett said:

I think when you see a position of that size, it is probably theirs. I am not going to get involved in something that doesn’t involve at least a few billion.

Two weeks ago, Kinder Morgan was listed as a new stake for the period ending December 31, 2015. That stake was said to be 26.533 million shares. The actual price paid for that stake is unknown, but Kinder Morgan shares closed out the fourth quarter at $14.79. On February 16, the date we found out about the Berkshire Hathaway stake, Kinder Morgan shares were at $15.62. The following day Kinder Morgan shares rose to $17.18, and they closed last Friday at $17.76.

It should be noted that Berkshire Hathaway is now just the eighth largest institutional holder of Kinder Morgan shares. That being said, Richard Kinder owns twice as many shares as the largest institutional holder (Vanguard), and another holder was shown to own more shares than Berkshire Hathaway as well. Please note that those individual holder stakes were as of earlier in 2015 per Yahoo! Finance data, so they could have changed.

24/7 Wall St. opined on why Buffett would have bought Kinder Morgan shares over other infrastructure and master limited partnership plays in the energy patch. While the aspect of the portfolio managers buying the stock was not a focus, the reasoning behind why Buffett would have bought Kinder Morgan rather than peers is still identical — after all, these portfolio managers are future Buffetts.

Kinder Morgan shares closed at $17.76 on Friday and were indicated up 1% at $17.94 early Monday. The consensus analyst price target is $20.50, and the 52-week trading range is $11.20 to $44.71.

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