Just yesterday, Warren Buffett’s latest trades were revealed via Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s (BRK.B) 13F filing, which is a filing that lists all of the transactions that took place over the second quarter in the $104 billion stock portfolio managed by the legendary investor.
This filing can provide some valuable insight into where Warren Buffett thinks the best investments might lie.
[ad#Google Adsense 336×280-IA]Now, it might not make sense to piggyback on his trades and simply buy and/or sell whatever he has because these filings are generally released 45 days after the most recent quarter ended, but it would appear to be an intelligent move to investigate exactly where the most successful investor of all time is putting his capital to work.
It’s also important to note that Buffett allows two other executives – Todd Combs and Ted Weschler – to authorize smaller transactions, so it’s difficult sometimes to decipher who bought and/or sold what.
Below, I’m going to go over every transaction and give some quick thoughts on each respective company.
I’m going to do my best to infer what each purchase and sale means, but it’s obviously impossible to know exactly what Warren Buffett was thinking when he executed each transaction.
Let’s take a look!
Please keep in mind this list is for informational purposes only, and is not a recommendation to buy any specific stocks.
- Purchased 2,309,013 shares of Charter Communications, Inc. (CHTR) – NEW POSITION
- Purchased 1,150,355 shares of Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V. (CBI)
- Purchased 2,960,056 shares of General Motors Co. (GM)
- Purchased 1,818,894 shares of International Business Machines Corp. (IBM)
- Purchased 2,519,578 shares of Liberty Global Plc Class A (LBTYA)
- Purchased 1,825,569 shares of Now Inc. (DNOW) – NEW POSITION
- Purchased 3,458,330 shares of Suncor Energy Inc. (SU)
- Purchased 67,800 shares of U.S. Bancorp (USB)
- Purchased 4,111,842 shares of USG Corporation (USG)
- Purchased 1,299,346 shares of Verisign, Inc. (VRSN)
- Purchased 3,978,185 shares of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)
- Purchased 244,290 shares of Visa Inc. (V)
- Purchased 744,847 shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT)
- Sold 9,724,730 shares of ConocoPhillips (COP)
- Sold 11,046,705 shares of Directv (DTV)
- Sold 1,620,190 shares of Graham Holdings Co. (GHC)
- Sold 1,300,000 shares of Liberty Media Corp. (LMCA)
- Sold 1,577,722 shares of National Oilwell Varco, Inc. (NOV)
- Sold 3,245,503 shares of Phillips 66 (PSX)
- Sold 100,714 shares of Precision Castparts Corp. (PCP)
- Sold 1,919,541 shares of Starz (STRZA) — SOLD OUT
Charter Communications, Inc. (CHTR) – Purchased 2,309,013 shares.
I thought this was really interesting. Buffett has long been a fan of media companies, and this appears to be a continuation of that. This is a new position for Berkshire and Buffett, which might surprise some.
Charter Communications, Inc. provides cable services throughout the US, and the fourth largest such provider. They serve approximately 4.5 million customers across more than two dozen states.
I mentioned this might be a surprising purchase, and I say that because Charter has a history of operating losses and negative free cash flow. Typically, Buffett likes to invest in companies with durable competitive advantages, robust cash flow, and strong earnings. And Charter appears a bit out of the ordinary here as a smaller, regional player with consistently negative earnings. Perhaps he sees something the rest of us do not.
Earnings have been negative every year over the last five years, though EPS have been steadily improving and getting closer to breaking even. The balance sheet appears to be a concern for me, as the long-term debt compared to common equity is very high, and the company can barely cover interest expenses with income before interest and taxes. I’ll stay away from this company for the time being.
Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V. (CBI) – Purchased 1,150,355 shares.
This was an addition to Berkshire’s position, and brings its holdings in CBI up to 10,701,110.
Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V. is an energy infrastructure company, providing design, engineering, and construction services to clients in the energy, petrochemical, and natural resource companies.
CBI offers a lot to like. First, you have to love the long-term story. Energy infrastructure remains in strong demand as global energy usage continues to increase on the back of rising populations and more access to energy from developing economies. And infrastructure is necessary anywhere energy projects are. Furthermore, the company has a backlog of over $30 billion, providing for plenty of future growth as projects come online.
The company has posted some tremendous growth over the last decade in almost all areas of the business. Revenue has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 21.68% from 2004-2013, while earnings per share have compounded at an annual rate of 22.72%. These are the types of numbers that I’m sure Buffett is looking at when adding to his position in CBI. CBI has been particularly soft this year, as the stock is down a little more then 30% YTD on the back of some accounting allegations. But that type of drop certainly offers those with conviction an opportunity to buy more, which is what you see here. The only thing I’d be concerned about is negative free cash flow over the last few quarters.
General Motors Co. (GM) – Purchased 2,960,056 shares.
This was another addition to an existing position, and brings Berkshire’s holdings in GM up to 32,960,056 shares.
General Motors Co. designs, manufactures, and sells cars, trucks, and automobile parts globally. They are the world’s second largest producer of cars and trucks.
This is somewhat of a larger position for Buffett, as Berkshire now has more than $1 billion committed to the company. This might be another surprising holding as Buffett has long condemned airline companies, and I think you can draw some comparisons to automobile companies. GM also lacks some of the long-term quality that Buffett often speaks of, as the company went public again in late 2010 after emerging from bankruptcy. It does appear, however, that the GM that left bankruptcy is a much stronger company than the one that entered it.
The finances of the company are difficult to analyze because it went public again only a few short years ago. However, it does appear that revenue has been slowly growing. EPS, on the other hand, is erratic, which isn’t surprising as GM operates in a cyclical industry. Shares appear a bit pricey right now, however, with a P/E ratio above 27. Though I think GM is manufacturing some of its best cars in decades, auto manufacturers are an investment I stay away from due to high costs and an extremely competitive industry that’s very sensitive to broader economic conditions.
International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) – Purchased 1,818,894 shares.
It’s a strong bet this was a Buffett transaction due to its size, as this was an addition to fourth largest position in the portfolio. Berkshire now owns 68,784,010 shares.
International Business Machines Corp. is an information technology company, providing technology-driven solutions to customers globally.
Buffett obviously remains a fan of IBM at current prices, and I can see why. This is a strong, global firm that has created a wide moat for itself through the scale of its operations and the difficulty of removing its software and services once installed. Buffett has long been averse to technology firms, but IBM is the rare exception due to its size, long history of earnings consistency, strong buyback policy, and robust cash flow. In addition, they pay an attractive dividend.
The P/E ratio on shares is a lowly 11.89 right now, which trails both the broader market and IBM’s own five-year average by a wide margin. Though revenue has largely flat over the last decade, the company’s transition away from hardware to software has improved margins.
Furthermore, the company’s aggressive buybacks have fueled strong profit growth: EPS has grown at a compounded annual rate of 13.08% over the last decade. And shares offer a 2.34% yield, while IBM has increased its dividend over the last 19 consecutive years. I’m a fellow shareholder in IBM, and it’s wonderful to have Buffett on the same page.
Liberty Global Plc Class A (LBTYA) – Purchased 2,519,578 shares.
This transaction increased Berkshire’s total holdings in LBTYA to 12,386,124 shares.
Liberty Global Plc through its subsidiaries provides various media and telecommunications services, such as video, broadband internet, fixed-line telephone, and mobile telephone services.
This is an interesting play here. Liberty Global Plc might be a relatively unknown company to us Americans, but it’s actually the largest cable operator in Europe. I think I see a trend here with this purchase and the Charter one above. It looks like Buffett remains a fan of media companies, and specifically cable operators due to their infrastructure and strong consumer dependence on these services.
Unfortunately, it seems LBTYA also lacks a meaningful price-to-earnings ratio because earnings are currently negative. The revenue growth has been fairly strong and steady, but earnings per share are all over the place. Overall, profitability appears to be inconsistent. I think Berkshire is after the infrastructure, which could turn out to be increasingly valuable in the future.
Now Inc. (DNOW) – Purchased 1,825,569 shares.
This is another new position for Berkshire, but being the small size of the transaction and the company it’s quite possible either Ted or Todd was behind this investment.
Now Inc. is a distributor to the oil and gas industry, with over 300 locations worldwide.
Berkshire must see something they like with this rather small distribution company in the energy sector. Now Inc. was spun off into an independent public company by National Oilwell Varco Inc. (NOV) in May 2014, and is now one of the largest such distributors of products like valves, fittings, tools, and supplies to the energy industry. They supply products for the upstream, midstream, downstream, and industrial market segments. This could be a really interesting company, as it’s still rather small in market cap ($3.4 billion), but with a lot of potential due to the fact that it supplies products with constant demand.
The company has been public for only a few months, so it’s impossible to get any long-term read on its finances. However, I’m quite sure Berkshire did its fair share of due diligence before initiating a position in the company. This is one I’d like to watch and see how they perform over the coming year once their financial position becomes a bit more clear.
Suncor Energy Inc. (SU) – Purchased 3,458,330 shares.
This transaction brings Berkshire’s holdings in SU up to 16,458,330 shares.
Suncor Energy is an integrated energy company. They are Canada’s second largest energy company, with a focus on developing Alberta’s Athabasca oil sands.
Suncor is a relatively small position for Buffett’s otherwise mammoth portfolio, but I think it’s likely we’ll see continued additions to SU over time. Suncor is taking on some pretty profitable projects, and it maintains a strong reserve base. Being one of the largest energy companies in a country noted for its large energy reserves places this company very well. And increasing demand for energy across the globe only further bolsters Suncor’s prospects.
SU has posted a CAGR in revenue to the tune of 21.80% over the last decade, but there was a merger with Petro-Canada in 2009. Meanwhile, EPS grew at an annual compounded rate of 11.11% over this same time frame, so you can see really strong growth with this company. Furthermore, they’re a strong dividend payer, which is an aspect Buffett has seemingly long been keen on. SU has a current yield on shares of 2.67% with eight consecutive years of dividend raises. And these raises have been aggressive: Over the last 10 years, the dividend has increased at an annual rate of 22%. With a P/E ratio of 16.26 I’m a fan of this investment here.
U.S. Bancorp (USB) – Purchased 67,800 shares.
A rather small transaction by itself, but this increased Berkshire’s stake in the bank to 80,094,497 shares.
U.S. Bancorp is a financial services company. It is the fifth largest bank, by assets, in the United States as of June 30, 2014.
This is one of Buffett’s larger positions, and he’s long been a fan of high-quality banks. Though USB got caught up in the financial crisis during 2008 and 2009, net interest income kept right on humming along. It doesn’t appear they were in any real danger during the Great Recession that took down a lot of major financial institutions, which is probably one reason Buffett remains a major investor in this bank. They’ve got scale as one of the largest banks in the US, while they have a long history of conservative underwriting. This appears to me as a low-risk play in the financial industry.
Total net revenue has increased at a compounded rate of 4.15% annually over the last five years, while EPS has posted a CAGR of 32.61% over this same time frame, though these numbers are coming from a low of 2009. USB was forced to cut its dividend during the height of the economic crisis, which might turn off some investors. But they’ve been aggressively growing it since early 2011, and shares currently offer a yield of 2.36%. That kind of income is something I’m quite sure Buffett enjoys as he’s able to allocate that capital where and how he sees fit.
USG Corporation (USG) – Purchased 4,111,842 shares.
This adds to an already fairly sizable stake, increasing Berkshire’s position in USG to 39,002,016 shares.
USG Corporation, through its subsidiaries, is a manufacturer and distributor of building materials. They produce products for use in new residential and nonresidential, as well as residential and nonresidential repair and remodeling.
Buffett has committed over $1 billion to USG, so he’s obviously convinced that this is a great investment. This company does have some unique advantages. For instance, they are North America’s largest producer of gypsum wallboard. It appears that demand for their products have been picking up as of late as the housing recovery continues, and some of this can be seen in their results.
However, this appears to be another strange investment for Buffett. Revenue growth over the last decade is negative, and the company routinely posts operating losses. Furthermore, free cash flow has been negative for four out of the last five years. It seems to me that Buffett is making a big bet on increased demand for wallboard and some of the other products USG produces, and their overall recovery and growth as a business. It’s a bet that could pay off big, especially if earnings growth accelerates.
Verisign, Inc. (VRSN) – Purchased 1,299,346 shares.
This latest purchase brings Berkshire’s position up to a total of 12,985,000 shares.
Verisign, Inc. provides internet infrastructure services. They are the leading provider of domain registry services.
Though Buffett has long been shy to invest in tech companies, this is yet another tech play. But where Buffett shines is picking absolutely dominant companies, and VRSN is no different. They provide the internet security and infrastructure necessary to get people where they want to go when they’re online. They operate a great portfolio of top-level domain names that includes .com, .net, and .tv.
Revenue has been inconsistent over the last decade, though some of the reasoning behind this is VRSN has been selling off some of its non-core businesses to focus on what it does best. EPS growth has also been lumpy at best, but has been much better and more consistent lately. I personally believe Buffett is better served in tech via his IBM investment with its enviable global position, healthy cash flow, steady earnings growth, attractive dividend, and substantial buyback policy.
Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) – Purchased 3,978,185 shares.
This is the second quarter in a row in which Berkshire reported buying shares in VZ, increasing its stake to 15,000,928 shares.
Verizon Communications Inc. provides entertainment, information, and communication products and services to clients across the US.
This purchase kind of keeps to the theme here, and Buffett’s desire to invest in media and media delivery, as Verizon is one of the larger providers of video and broadband internet across the US, in addition to their major exposure to fixed-line telephone services and mobile. I’m also a fan of Verizon, and am currently a shareholder.
Revenue has grown at a CAGR of 6.01% over the last decade, which is pretty solid for what most might consider a boring company. EPS has grown at a similar rate, with a compound annual growth rate of 4.95% over the last 10 years. Furthermore, the company offers a very attractive dividend; shares currently yield 4.33%. I can’t imagine Buffett doesn’t like that steady cash flow coming his way which he can allocate as he pleases. The valuation seems pretty favorable here, though the debt load is a bit concerning.
Visa Inc. (V) – Purchased 244,290 shares.
This latest transaction brings Berkshire’s position in V up to 1,799,749 shares.
Visa Inc. is a payments technology company that allows consumers, businesses, banks, and governments in more than 200 countries to use and accept electronic payments.
Though this is a relatively small position for Berkshire, I can easily see this becoming a major holding over time. Visa is by far the most dominant electronic payments company, with far more transactions than any of its competitors. And digitizing currency is becoming more attractive around the world simply because it’s safer and easier than cash. Furthermore, it’s easier to track, which makes it more convenient for governments and banks.
Visa has experienced massively robust growth since going public in 2008. Visa has posted a CAGR in revenue to the tune of 14.26% over the last five years. EPS growth has been even more impressive, growing at a compounded rate of 25.09% annually over the same time period. Obviously, Berkshire isn’t ignoring that. I’m also a shareholder in Visa, and one thing I love about this company is their commitment to growing the dividend aggressively. V has increased the dividend by an annual rate of 45.9% over the last five years, and I’m confident they can keep these kinds of rates up for the foreseeable future.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) – Purchased 744,847 shares.
This addition means Berkshire now owns 58,797,259 shares in the retailer.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates retail stores in various sizes and formats across the globe. They are the largest retailer in the world.
Not a big surprise here. Buffett has long been a fan of dominant companies, and there are few greater examples than Wal-Mart. I’m also a shareholder in this company, simply because I can’t see a world where Wal-Mart isn’t doing well somehow. Sure, there’s concerns over the rise of e-commerce, but Wal-Mart has been aggressively growing its own e-commerce presence. For instance, Wal-Mart reported 24% year-over-year growth in e-commerce across all channels with its second quarter results.
WMT has been a solid holding for many value investors, primarily due to its strong operating results. Even the recent economic crisis did little to shake WMT’s ability to record increasing profit every single year. Revenue has increased at a compounded annual growth rate of 5.86% over the last decade, while EPS posted a CAGR of 8.08% over the same time frame. These are very solid numbers in the retailing industry, where margins are usually pretty tight. The valuation on shares seems pretty attractive to me right now, while shares also offer a yield of 2.58%. Not too shabby at all.
ConocoPhillips (COP) – Sold 9,724,730 shares.
This sale reduced Berkshire’s stake in the oil company to 1,355,228 shares.
ConocoPhillips is an independent energy exploration and production company, primarily involved in crude oil and natural gas.
I guess I’m not totally surprised to see Buffett reduce his stake here. This sale almost completely closed out his position, as Berkshire now has less than $109 million invested in the company. COP as a stock has performed extremely well over the course of the year, and was particularly strong in the second quarter. I assume Buffett was looking for an exit and saw the stock’s meteoric rise to near all-time highs as the right time.
I remain a shareholder, however. It’s tough to review its financial performance accurately because it spun off its downstream operations in 2012. But I’m a big fan of high-quality energy companies as I think energy will be a big story over the next decade or two, and COP remains the largest US-based independent E&P company. They have great exposure to some of the best domestic developments, including Eagle Ford and Bakken. Furthermore, the enticing yield of 3.64% offers plenty of cash flow to stay patient.
Directv (DTV) – Sold 11,046,705 shares.
This sale reduced this position to 23,467,995 shares.
Directv provides digital television entertainment in the US and Latin America.
This sale seems particularly prudent to me. In May, Directv agreed to sell itself to AT&T Inc. (T), which has yet to be approved. However, shares have performed particularly well on the news. DTV has absolutely trounced the broader market YTD, up 22.27%. Buffett reduced his stake in the digital television provider by about 1/3, so he appears to be taking some off the table here just in case the sale doesn’t go through and shares are cheaper down the road. The only thing I don’t quite understand is that DTV agreed to be acquired for $95/share in cash and stock, so perhaps Buffett doesn’t want to be an AT&T shareholder.
But you have to like the growth story either way. The CAGR for revenue is 10.16% over the last five years, while EPS grew at a compounded annual rate of 52.74% over the same time period. Though DTV doesn’t pay a dividend, there’s no doubt shareholders have done well over the last five years. I think shareholders in DTV do pretty well either way. Either T acquires them and there’s the premium there in cash and stock, or DTV continues doing what they’re doing. S&P Capital IQ predicts EPS to grow at a compounded annual rate of 11% over the next three years, so I think Buffett is playing it safe here by selling some and keeping the rest.
Graham Holdings Co. (GHC) – Sold 1,620,190 shares.
This sale reduces Berkshire’s stake in GHC down to 107,575 shares.
Graham Holdings Co. – formerly The Washington Post Company – is a diversified education and media company.
This transaction reduced Buffett’s position in GHC significantly, down to a level where it’s really just a minor portion of the portfolio. This transaction was unique because Buffett has owned a stake in this company for more than four decades now, but it seems the sale of The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos changed Buffett’s view on the future of GHC.
This is a very old holding for Buffett, and it doesn’t appear that recent financial performance had much to do with his decision, from what I’ve read. That being said, the financial performance of the company over the last 10 years has been kind of rough. Though, it’s hard to determine exactly how much the sale of the newspaper will affect that going forward. The company’s CAGR for revenue was just 0.62%, while EPS grew at an annual compound rate of -3.21%. So I can’t exactly say I blame Buffett for selling off most of his position here.
Liberty Media Corp. (LMCA) – Sold 1,300,000 shares.
This transaction reduces Berkshire’s position to 4,000,000 shares.
Liberty Media Corp., through its subsidiaries, owns interests in the entertainment, media, and communications industries.
This sale is interesting because Liberty Media actually owns large chunks of a number of media companies, and it seems that Buffett has been busy buying, rather than selling, most of his media stakes. It’s particularly interesting that LMCA owns 26% of Charter Communications, which Buffett was busy buying a stake in directly during the quarter. It looks like he’d rather have the direct ownership himself, which I can’t blame.
LMCA’s financial information is a bit skewed, especially going into 2013 due to their strategic investment in Charter Communications. It’s hard to meaningfully make comparisons due to this, but it appears Liberty is quite bullish on Charter as they dedicate quite a bit of time to explain the investment in their latest annual report. I wonder if this investment had anything to do with Buffett’s sale here and purchase in Charter directly.
National Oilwell Varco, Inc. (NOV) – Sold 1,577,722 shares.
This sale decreases Berkshire’s stake in NOV down to 7,302,278 shares.
National Oilwell Varco, Inc. provides equipment and components used in oil and gas drilling operations.
This was just a slight reduction in this position, which is interesting since Berkshire disclosed a new position in Now Inc. – a recent spin-off of NOV. I’m not sure if Buffett just wants exposure to both companies or he or one of his lieutenants is more bullish on Now, but I think both companies should do well moving forward. NOV is by far the bigger company of the two, and appears to be pretty dominant in its space, if its $17.5 billion backlog is any evidence of that.
Looking at financial performance reveals a very healthy company. Revenue has grown at a compounded annual rate of 28.90% over the last decade, while EPS experienced a CAGR of 26.84% over the same time period. Meanwhile, the company sports an attractive dividend yield of 2.28% with six consecutive years of dividend raises. And the balance sheet shows very little debt. Not much to dislike here. I think I may have to join Mr. Buffett as a shareholder sooner rather than later.
Phillips 66 (PSX) – Sold 3,245,503 shares.
This sale reduced Berkshire’s position in PSX to 6,495,800 shares.
Phillips 66 is primarily an independent refiner, with assets in midstream and chemicals.
Buffett appears to have cut a pretty significant chunk of his ownership of PSX, and I wonder if stock performance might have anything to do with this. The stock is up 42.04% over the last year, which absolutely trounces the S&P 500 index’s 15.58% increase over the same time frame. Though Berkshire added shares to SU this past quarter, the portfolio’s exposure to energy was a net reduction, so I wonder if Buffett just thinks energy stocks in general have run up too much too fast or he just feels SU has more value and attractive assets in the oil sands.
PSX has only been a public company since April 2012, so it’s hard to really glean anything from their financial performance. But for the limited time they’ve been public revenue and EPS have seem to declined every year. However, one of the primary metrics I like to look at – dividend growth – is impressive.
They’ve increased their dividend by 150% since going public, which gives me the kind of income growth I like to see. S&P Capital IQ is predicting EPS to grow at a compounded annual rate of 13% over the next three years, so I expect plenty of growth ahead. But it looks like Buffett is simply hedging his bets here, and the stock has performed extremely well.
Precision Castparts Corp. (PCP) – Sold 100,714 shares.
This sale reduces Berkshire’s stake in PCP to 1,876,622 shares.
Precision Castparts Corp. manufactures metal components and products that provide investment castings, forgings, and fastener systems used in aerospace and power applications.
This was a minor reduction in Berkshire’s PCP position, but a reduction nonetheless. PCP has a very interesting business model. I love businesses that are unheralded, yet produce extremely valuable and necessary components across multiple industries. And PCP appears to be one of those businesses. Their forged metal components are primarily used in the manufacture of jet engines and industrial gas turbines, but they also provide products for the energy, automotive, and chemicals industries.
PCP has grown tremendously over the last decade, and this is one of those businesses whose financial performance sneaks up on you and surprises. Revenue has grown at a compounded annual rate of 14.16% over the last 10 years, while EPS grew at a CAGR of 20.94% over that time frame. These are pretty impressive numbers. Meanwhile, the company maintains a pretty solid balance sheet. S&P Capital IQ predicts EPS to grow at a compounded annual rate of 18% over the next three years. The only thing keeping me from rushing out to buy shares right now is the fact that the stock only yields 0.05%.
Starz (STRZA) – Sold 1,919,541 shares.
This sale completely eliminated Berkshire’s stake in Starz.
Starz in an integrated global media and entertainment company. They offer domestic subscription television channels, global content distribution, and animated production.
This transaction means Berkshire is no longer invested in Starz. This completes Buffett’s media moves over the last quarter, where he seemed to be the most active. Starz was a spin-off of Liberty Media Corp., so it appears that Buffett wasn’t a huge fan of the assets involved with Starz and decided to cash out and invest elsewhere.
Starz has only been publicly traded since 2013 after being spun off from Liberty Media Corp., so it’s difficult to get an exact idea of their financial performance. But I think an investment in Starz is really a play on subscription television and some of their other assets. Content production and distribution is more competitive than ever, and it seems difficult to carve out an economic moat in this arena. As such, I’d rather stay on the sidelines and enjoy television without having to worry about whether my content investment is doing well or not.
You can find more details on all of these transactions, including access to Berkshire Hathaway’s entire portfolio of U.S.-listed stocks (as reported in its quarterly filing), inside DailyTradeAlert’s Buffett Tracker.
— Jason Fieber, Dividend Mantra