Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sold billions of dollars’ worth of stock and invested little money in the US stock market in the first three months of the year, as the famous investor saw little appeal in the volatile market.
Berkshire revealed on Saturday that it sold $13.3 billion in shares in the first quarter and bought shares worth only a fraction of that number. Instead, it invested $4.4 billion in buying back its shares, as well as $2.9 billion in shares of other publicly traded companies.
The numbers underscore the struggle Berkshire faces using so much cash to operate at times when Buffett and his right-hand man Charlie Munger view valuations as unattractive. The company’s cash pile has risen by $2 billion since the start of this year to $130.6 billion, its highest level since the end of 2021.
Munger last month told the Financial Times that investors should lower their expectations for stock market returns as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates and the economy slows.
Berkshire reported a profit of $35.5 billion in the first quarter, or $24,377 per Class A share, largely driven by a stock rally that lifted the value of its $328 billion portfolio of stocks. Profits were up from $5.6 billion in the previous year.
Operating profit — Buffett’s preferred measure of performance for Berkshire’s diversified group of companies — rose 12.6 percent from a year earlier to $8.1 billion. For the first time, the number includes the results of Pilot Flying J’s truck stop business, of which Berkshire took majority control in January.
The numbers were released just hours before Buffett and three other Berkshire executives took to the stage in downtown Omaha, where tens of thousands of shareholders gathered for the company’s annual meeting.
Shareholders will hear the 92-year-old billionaire and his deputies Munger, Gregory Appel and Ajit Jain discuss the economy, the Fed’s efforts to lower inflation and Berkshire itself.
The four men are likely to be pressed on why the sprawling group has not made a major investment in the US banking sector, as it did in the midst of the financial crisis.
At the time, Berkshire’s capital helped back both Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. The latter is now a primary property in the company’s stock portfolio.
Berkshire stock is up 4.9 percent since the start of this year.
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