Warren Buffett's Top Stock Holdings Keep Changing

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) has released its public equity holdings as of March 31, 2016. This is perhaps the largest company of them all among those watched on Wall Street. If Warren Buffett is considered the greatest investor of the modern era, and if he has held the title of the world’s richest man, then maybe he knows a thing or two.

24/7 Wall St. has tracked Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway’s investments for years. The more recent observations about Buffett’s portfolio changes at the end of 2016 and in the start of 2017 have been that the number of changes has been nothing short of astonishing.

Buffett and his team of portfolio managers had public equity holdings of $161.87 billion as of March 31, 2017, in their 13F filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This was up from $147.98 billion at the end of 2016 and at $115.46 billion as of December 31, 2015, but it is the equity value of the investment portfolio only. It does not include any of the public debt and convertible securities held by Berkshire Hathaway.

Investors who have chased Warren Buffett’s investments now need to take into consideration that Ted Weschler and Todd Combs have been making more aggressive investments on behalf of Berkshire Hathaway. It was these two portfolio managers, rather than Buffett himself, which decided in the third quarter of 2016 to make a multibillion investment into the major airline stocks.

There were three major changes that already had been telegraphed or explained by Buffett himself in recent weeks. He recently confessed that he sold about 30% of his International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) stake and he has increased his position in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). Buffett also admitted earlier in 2017 that Amazon and online retailing elsewhere were top reasons for why he sold almost all his shares in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT).

Buffett has owned most of his top holdings for many years. There were five positions that each had $10 billion profits earlier this year. The rest of Buffett’s holdings and details on the respective changes are presented below.

Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) was listed as 479,704,270 shares, the same count since last September. It had been documented in 2016 that Buffett asked the SEC to be allowed to increase his stake above the 10% threshold, and Buffett did not sell any Wells Fargo shares after the account-opening scandal and during the Stumpf exit.

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) was a stake that Buffett already telegraphed selling down, and the March 31, 2017, stake was down to 64.56 million shares. It had previously been a stake of 81.232 million shares at the end of 2016.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was already a larger stake at the end of 2016, but we knew Buffett had increased it. As of March 31, 2017, that stake was up to 129.357 million shares, worth almost $18.6 billion. The prior Apple stake was 57,359,652 shares, up from just 15.227 million in the prior quarter.

Three more of Buffett’s long-term giant stakes that remained static were as follows:

  • Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) was the exact same stake of 400 million shares. This position has remained static, and Buffett has defended his stake for years.
  • American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) was the same 151.61 million shares, 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.
  • Kraft Heinz Co. (NYSE: KHC) was listed as the same 325,634,818 shares and was previously a stake from the 3G Capital deal. The value in the portfolio was $29.57 billion.

Buffett’s portfolio managers did make some rotational changes in their airline holdings, but they still own all the same airlines:

  • American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) was a higher stake at 49.278 million shares. That stake was previously at 45.54 million shares, after having been raised from 21.77 million shares.
  • Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) was listed as 55.02 million shares, which appears to be lower than the 60.02 million shares reported at the end of 2016.
  • Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) was a larger stake at 47.66 million shares, versus a stake at the end of 2016 of just over 43.2 million shares.
  • United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) was 28.95 million shares at the end March, the same stake as on the last day of 2016.

Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) was the same 80.689 million shares in March as at the end of 2016. The stake was a Buffett pick of his own and had been raised in 2016.

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