Being Warren Buffett may come with one of the best job titles in the business world. It also comes with the most responsibility, and the investment community and public gets to play armchair quarterback by analyzing or criticizing Buffett’s every move. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) is one of the largest and most recognized companies in America, but it would also be considered as having one America’s largest in-house investment portfolios.
24/7 Wall St. reports in detail each and every quarter about Buffett’s top stock holdings. Just four positions make up about 58% of the total fair value of a public stock portfolio that was shown to be over $107 billion in the last filing, while the equity position was listed as over $113 billion at the last report. Then there is the other side of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio: the stakes that are so small one wonders why the conglomerate even bothers owning them.
While investors genuinely care about when Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-B) buys or sells a stock, Team Buffett often tends to keep a tail position around in former large stock holdings. The reason may be that he still gets to keep tabs on the companies or still gets to call in as a shareholder. There is also another notion, that the portfolio managers just never really get around to cleaning up the tail of a position.
It turns out that Buffett has five public stocks that used to be far larger stakes or which seem like token positions. The take of 24/7 Wall St. is that these positions either need to cleared out entirely or they should be grown into something worth the time of Buffett and his team.
The stakes that Buffett needs to delete or add to include Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Lee Enterprises Inc. (NYSE: LEE), United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS), Kraft Foods Group Inc. (NASDAQ: KRFT) and Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ). There are of course other stakes that make less sense, but these are the first places where Buffett could clean up the portfolio.
Now that portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler are handling one Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary each, it just makes sense for Buffett and his team to manage fewer positions of stock. That is particularly true for those positions that are a few million dollars.
Keep in mind that an equity stake of $100 million or less represents less than 0.1% of the total equity portfolio at Berkshire Hathaway. Also, a $100 million stake now represents just 0.3% of the market cap of Berkshire Hathaway. How can such small positions benefit anyone?
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson was again the same tiny stake of only 327,100 shares, but it was much lower than in years past. Back in 2011, we noted that J&J was down to about 42.6 million shares, after having peaked at 62 million shares in prior years. Johnson & Johnson has been a solid dividend grower and has managed to overcome most of its supply chain issues to the point that shares have risen over 50% since early in 2012. J&J shares have not done much of anything in 2015 yet, but analysts keep ticking their targets higher and higher.