Buffett's Berkshire cuts Conoco, J&J, P&G stakes

By @ibtimes on

NEW YORK - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc reported lower stakes in ConocoPhillips, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble Co in the fourth quarter, reducing several of its biggest investments as it prepared to complete its takeover of railroad company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.

In a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing detailing its quarterly holdings on U.S. markets, Berkshire reported a 37.7 million share stake worth $1.93 billion in ConocoPhillips as of Dec. 31.

That is about 19.7 million shares, or 34 percent, fewer than it reported in the second-largest U.S. oil company as of Sept. 30. Buffett has admitted to terrible timing in amassing what was once a $7.01 billion stake in Conoco, not anticipating that oil prices would tumble nearly $150 a barrel.

Berkshire also reported a 27.1 million share stake worth about $1.75 billion in drug company Johnson & Johnson, about 9.8 million shares, or 26 percent, below what it reported three months earlier.

Meanwhile, its reported stake in consumer products company Procter & Gamble fell about 8.8 million shares, or 9 percent, to 87.5 million shares worth $5.31 billion. This investment has been among Berkshire's most successful and dates from 1989 when Berkshire bought preferred stock in Gillette Co, the razor blade maker that Procter & Gamble bought in 2005.

The disclosure was made four days after Berkshire completed its roughly $26.4 billion cash-and-stock takeover of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the second-largest U.S. railroad operator.

Buffett has often said he would be sell some stocks if he found other investments he liked better. He does not ordinarily explain purchases and sales revealed in quarterly SEC filings.

Tuesday's SEC filing includes investments made by Berkshire subsidiaries, including a portfolio at the car insurer Geico Corp overseen by Lou Simpson. Buffett has said investors should not assume all the reported investment decisions are his.

Berkshire also reported higher share stakes in Becton Dickinson & Co, Iron Mountain Inc, Republic Services Inc, Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Wells Fargo & Co.

It also reported lower share stakes in Carmax Inc, Exxon Mobil Corp, Gannett Co Inc, Ingersoll-Rand Plc, Moody's Corp, SunTrust Banks Inc, UnitedHealth Group Inc and WellPoint Inc.

As it previously disclosed, Berkshire also sold its holdings in Norfolk Southern Corp and Union Pacific Corp, which are rivals of Burlington Northern.

The value of Berkshire's disclosed portfolio of U.S.-listed equities rose 2 percent from the third quarter to $57.93 billion from $56.55 billion.

Buffett, 79, is the world's second-richest person. He has transformed Berkshire since 1965 into a conglomerate with close to 80 companies selling such things as candy, car insurance, ice cream and underwear.

In Tuesday trading, Berkshire Class A shares closed down $36 at $113,964, and its Class B shares fell 85 cents to $76.05. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by Andre Grenon)

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