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HomeMarketWarren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Churns Through Stock Holdings Like TSMC

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Churns Through Stock Holdings Like TSMC

Berkshire Hathaway sharply reduced its equity holding of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in the fourth quarter.

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Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

Warren Buffett is famous for his patient investment style, having said that his favorite holding period is “forever.”

Berkshire Hathaway
(ticker: BRK/A, BRK/B), however, has been churning through equity holdings in recent years, including
Verizon Communications
(VZ) and a group of drug stocks. In fact, eight of the top 15 equity holdings listed in Buffett’s 2019 annual shareholder letter are gone or much reduced.

Given the subsequent gains in many of the stocks that Berkshire unloaded, the company would have done better to keep them in its $350 billion equity portfolio.

The most notable recent example is
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
(TSM), or TSMC, according to Berkshire’s latest 13-F filing.

In the third quarter, Berkshire bought a stake of 60 million Taiwan Semi shares, only to sell 86% of the holding in the fourth quarter to end 2022 with just 8.3 million shares, worth less than $800 million. The news of the stock sale, which occurred after the close of trading Tuesday, is dragging down Taiwan Semi stock, which slid 6.6% to $91.53 in recent Wednesday trading.

Berkshire might not have made any profit on the stock, given that the average price of Taiwan Semi averaged $72 a share in the fourth quarter, $10 less than in the third quarter. Berkshire has missed out on some nice gains so far in 2023, with TSMC up about 24% year to date. Berkshire’s purchase of the stock generated a lot of excitement when it was disclosed in mid-November; Taiwan Semi stock popped more than 10% on the news. But this latest round of turnover suggests that investors may want to curb their enthusiasm about the disclosure of new Berkshire investments.

Berkshire didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Verizon stock was another holding that wasn’t forever for Berkshire. After accumulating a $9 billion stake in Verizon Communications mostly in 2020, Berkshire eliminated it in the first half of 2022 and likely took a small loss.

Similarly, in late 2020, Berkshire bought roughly $2 billion stakes in each of three drug companies—
Bristol Myers Squibb
(BMY), and
(ABBV)—and those are gone now and are higher in price in the sales.

Some of the churn reflects activity by Buffett, and the rest could involve his two investment lieutenants—Todd Combs and Ted Weschler—who run a total of about 10% of the equity portfolio.

Looking at the top 15 stocks listed in the 2019 annual letter published in February 2020,
Delta Air Lines
Goldman Sachs Group
JP Morgan Chase
Southwest Airlines
United Continental Holdings
(UAL), and
Wells Fargo
(WFC) have been eliminated. Holdings of U.S. Bancorp (USB) and
Bank of New York
(BK) have been cut back significantly.

Buffett has sharply reduced Berkshire’s bank-stock holdings and now is concentrated in a $36 billion investment in
Bank of America
(BAC). The bank-stock sales—especially Wells Fargo—weren’t well-timed. Barron’s estimates that Berkshire got roughly half of Wells Fargo’s current price of $48 a share, for what had been a longtime stake of nearly 350 million shares. Overall, Barron’s estimates that Berkshire has left more than $10 billion on the table with its bank-stock sales.

The airline stocks were sold after the onset of the pandemic in the second quarter of 2020 at prices below current levels.

Buffett told CNBC in early 2019 that he thought bank stocks were appealing because of low valuations. At the time, he singled out JPMorgan stock, then trading around $100—it’s now at $143.

“A business that earns 15% or 16% or 17% on net tangible equity, that’s incredible in a world of 3% bonds. I mean, just imagine that you had a deposit account with JPMorgan that they made a mistake and they gave you 15% on it. And they couldn’t redeem it. What would you sell that account for? You wouldn’t sell it for 100 cents on the dollar. You wouldn’t sell it for 200 cents on the dollar. You wouldn’t even sell it for 300 cents on the dollar,” he told CNBC at the time.

That analysis suggested that the bank should trade for three times tangible book—or about $150 at the time. That is roughly where the stock trades now, although the current price to tangible book value is two, one of the higher valuations among its peers. JPMorgan’s book value is higher since then.

While there has been great churn in the portfolio, the largest Berkshire holdings have shown little or no change in the past few years, including
American Express
(AXP), Bank of America, and

Berkshire bought a $12 billion stake in
Occidental Petroleum
in 2022, which Barron’s estimates has gained more than $2 billion. Buffett’s company also greatly expanded its holding in
(CVX) to nearly 170 million shares worth around $29 billion in 2022. That holding could have a gain of close to $9 billion.

Investors will be able to calculate the profits on those two energy holdings on Feb. 25, when Berkshire releases Buffett’s shareholder letter, which shows the top 15 equity positions and their cost basis.

Write to Andrew Bary at


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