Warren Buffett’s stock-buying spree slowed down drastically in the second quarter even during the market’s big correction, and analysts said the “Oracle of Omaha” could be preserving capital for other uses. Berkshire Hathaway ‘s net stock purchase fell to $3.8 billion in the second quarter, compared with more than $41 billion in the first quarter, the conglomerate’s quarterly reports showed. The relatively quiet activity from Buffett may come as a surprise to some as the S & P 500’s biggest one-quarter fall since March 2020 made a good environment for dip-buying. After all, the legendary investor dove into the market to pick up bargains in the first quarter when the S & P 500 fell just 5%. CFRA Research analyst Cathy Seifert said that Buffett could be managing liquidity needs before its Allegany deal closes in the next few months. The conglomerate’s deal to buy insurance company Alleghany for $11.6 billion, or $848.02 per share, in cash is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. The acquisition would mark Buffett’s biggest deal since 2016. Seifert also expects Berkshire to increase its stake in Occidental Petroleum to more than 20%. Buffett has been steadily adding to his stake in the oil giant since March, giving Berkshire a 19.4% Occidental stake worth about $10.9 billion. Buybacks to ramp up again? Berkshire could also be saving cash to buy more of its own stock. The conglomerate said it spent approximately $1 billion in share repurchases during the second quarter, a slower repurchase pace than the first quarter, when the company bought back $3.2 billion of if its own stock. Now that Berkshire’s stock has gotten cheaper after the second-quarter’s sell-off, the conglomerate could ramp up buyback activity again in the coming quarter. “We would not be surprised if BRK share repurchases continue in 3Q22 given the discount the share appear to be trading at relative to their intrinsic value,” Brian Meredith, UBS analyst covering Berkshire, said in a note. The conglomerate’s Class A stock fell more than 22% in the second quarter, and it’s now down nearly 20% from an all-time high reached March 28. Share buybacks are usually dependent on whether Buffett believes the stock is trading at a big enough discount to its intrinsic value and other uses of cash. Berkshire Hathaway Energy? Berkshire’s latest quarterly filing also revealed that Vice Chairman Greg Abel, Buffett’s potential successor, sold his 1% stake in the company’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy unit for $870 million. Berkshire now owns 92% of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, with the rest belonging to the family of the late billionaire philanthropist Walter Scott who passed away last September at age 90. If the Walter Scott estate is interested in liquidating its 7.9% stake, that would require almost $7 billion, according to Edward Jones analyst James Shanahan. “I don’t know what they have in mind, but I do believe that Buffett would like to own all of BHE,” Shanahan said. Huge investment losses While Berkshire posted a 38% jump in operating earnings, the conglomerate was not immune to the overall market turmoil with a whopping $53 billion loss on its investments during the second quarter. Buffett once again asked investors to not focus on the quarterly fluctuations in its equity investments. “The amount of investment gains/losses in any given quarter is usually meaningless and delivers figures for net earnings per share that can be extremely misleading to investors who have little or no knowledge of accounting rules,” Berkshire said in a statement. Still, the pullback in its existing portfolio may have given Buffett a pause, Seifert said. The bulk of the losses were within Berkshire’s largest positions, including Apple ($34 billion loss on Berkshire’s position during the second quarter), Bank of America ($10 billion loss) and American Express ($7 billion loss). These positions have recouped some of the losses in the current quarter. “We estimate that a recovery in prices for stocks owned by Berkshire has reversed a substantial portion of the second quarter decline in book value,” Shanahan said.
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