Investing like Warren Buffett isn’t so hard — not so much in replicating the results, that’s almost impossible. But even though we can’t all be worth $90 billion, we can take a glimpse inside SEC filings by Berkshire Hathaway for some insight into what stocks the Oracle of Omaha is shining on and what he’s given up on.
And 2018 has been a busy year for Buffett, with Berkshire opening and closing some large positions in major blue chip companies. Here’s a look at the most notable stocks Buffett bought and sold in 2018.
Buffett might be thinking that some airline stocks are ready for take-off. He’s bought almost 12.5 million shares of Delta, bringing his total stake to over 65 million shares and a value of about $3.8 billion as of the end of September. He also added about 8.4 million shares to his Southwest Airlines position, bringing it to just over 56 million shares.
Not all airline stocks are made the same, though. Buffett bailed out on a slice of his position in two major airlines. Berkshire shed 2.3 million shares from its American Airlines position, bringing it to 43.7 million shares, and sold about 2.2 million shares of United Continental Holdings to give him just under 26 million in total.
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Warren Buffett really likes bank stocks: the financial sector makes up over 40 percent of Berkshire’s total portfolio. And he only expanded those investments in 2018, especially in the third quarter.
Not only did Buffett open a new position with JPMorgan Chase to the tune of 35.7 million shares between the end of June and the end of September, but he added tens of millions of shares during that same time period to his large stakes in Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs and U.S. Bancorp — including a mighty purchase of nearly 200 million shares of Bank of America in just three months.
Of course, while he expanded his holdings in a number of major banks, he also unwinded a slice of his most notable bank stock: Wells Fargo. Buffett still holds 442.4 million shares of the company, but he did sell off 15.9 million thus far in 2018, with 9.7 million coming in just the third quarter.
Change in Position: Bought 87.1 million shares
Apple is the largest position in the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. Buffett’s company owns over 5 percent of the mega-cap tech company — the third-largest position in Apple held by anyone. Buffett bought up 74.2 million new shares in the first three months of the year, but he didn’t stop there — adding 12.4 million in Q2 and then another half million in Q3 just for good measure.
All told, with the additional 87.1 million shares, Buffett holds over 250 million shares of Apple that were valued at just under $57 billion as of Sept. 31.
General Motors (GM)
Change in Position: Bought 7.4 million shares
Berkshire Hathaway held a position of exactly 50 million shares as of the end of last year, and they held that same position through the end of Q1 this year. However, if you think Buffett just likes nice round numbers, you would be wrong. Or at least, he seemed to like General Motors more. Buffett added 1.4 million shares during Q2 and about another million in Q4 to bring the total holding to 52.5 million shares, which was worth $1.8 billion as of Sept. 31.
Change in Position: Sold about 2 million shares
Two million shares might not sound like a lot given Buffett’s track record, but it’s significant in that it was all of the remaining shares Buffett held in the company. It’s a notable departure after he revealed a massive $10.7 billion stake back in 2011. And although he had already sold off about 62 million of those shares prior to 2018, Berkshire Hathaway finally finished unraveling their position during the first three months of the year.
Change in Position: Sold 19 million shares
Monsanto was sold to Bayer in a massive $62.5 billion deal that valued shares at $122 apiece. And just about 19 million of those shares were held by Berkshire Hathaway, putting their take from the deal at about $2.3 billion. Buffett actually expanded his position by 7.3 million shares in Q1, just ahead of the completion of the deal.
Phillips 66 (PSX)
Change in Position: Sold 65.3 million shares
At the end of 2017, Berkshire reported holding 80.7 million shares of Phillips 66. But then, Buffett apparently took the second part of the company’s name as a suggestion for how many millions of shares of stock he should sell. Berkshire sold off at least 10 million shares of the oil transport and refining company in each quarter of 2018, bringing the total to 65.3 million shares or about 81 percent of his stake.
Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA)
Change in Position: Bought 24.4 million shares
The 18.9 million shares Berkshire held in Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva was worth $357.7 million as of the end of 2017. That changed in a major way in 2018 as Berkshire more than doubled the size of its stake, adding 24.4 million shares worth $573.9 million as of the end of September. That brings the entire stake in the company to 43.2 million shares.
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Oracle Corporation (ORCL)
Change in Position: Bought 41.4 million shares
As of the end of June, Berkshire Hathaway held no shares in Oracle. So, when the company reported holding 41.4 million shares as of the end of Q3 — worth over $2 billion at that point — it means that in addition to going on a buying spree for bank stocks, Berkshire Hathaway snatched up stock in this tech firm as well.
Change in Position: Sold 3.9 million shares
Even as Buffett expanded his big pharma holdings with Teva Pharmaceuticals, he winded down his holdings elsewhere in the sector — selling off all of his shares in French healthcare firm Sanofi by the end of Q3. Once again, the majority of the action came from August to September, with all but 200,000 or so of the 3.9 million shares Berkshire Hathaway held at the end of 2017 getting sold off during Q3.
The Travelers Companies, Inc. (TRV)
Change in Position: Bought 3.5 million shares
Another addition from Berkshire’s busy third quarter was that of insurance provider Travelers, which Buffett added 3.5 million shares of. The position was worth over $450 million as of the end of September and represents another segment of the financial services industry that Buffett appears to see value in.
Charter Communications (CHTR)
Change in Position: Sold 1.1 million shares
Buffett appeared to be ready to charter a flight away from this cable provider in 2018, selling off about 1.1 million of the 8.5 million shares Berkshire held as of the end of 2017. While he still held $2.4 billion worth of the stock as of Sept. 31, the 1.1 million shares he sold off were worth over $450 million at that same price.
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About the Author
Joel Anderson is a business and finance writer with over a decade of experience writing about the wide world of finance. Based in Los Angeles, he specializes in writing about the financial markets, stocks, macroeconomic concepts and focuses on helping make complex financial concepts digestible for the retail investor.