Berkshire tweaks bank play with $2.9bn bet on Citi
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Berkshire tweaks bank play with $2.9bn bet on Citi

Berkshire tweaks bank play with $2.9bn bet on Citi

Berkshire’s now betting on Citigroup as new management takes over

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Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which cut many bank holdings as the pandemic bore down on the US, is back with a roughly $2.9bn bet on Jane Fraser’s Citigroup even as it said goodbye to a long-time stake in Wells Fargo & Co.

The company also added a $2.61bn bet on Paramount and a nearly $390m stake in Ally Financial, according to a regulatory filing on Monday. Buffett’s firm also disclosed new stakes in McKesson Corp., Markel Corp. and Celanese Corp.

Berkshire has spent recent years revamping its bank bets. It pulled back from big-name investments including stakes in JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group, while sticking with Bank of America Corp. and US Bancorp. Wells Fargo, an investment made more than three decades ago by Berkshire, has been whittled down and finally disappeared from the quarterly filing this time around.

Berkshire’s now betting on Citigroup as new management takes over. Citigroup’s shares have been languishing even as new CEO Fraser seeks to refocus on higher-returning businesses like wealth management and treasury offerings. The shares have traded below book value — a sign that investors believe executives are actively destroying shareholder value – since 2018. A Citi spokeswoman declined to comment.

Buffett, Berkshire’s chief executive officer and chairman, and his investing deputies have been on one of Berkshire’s biggest buying sprees, with about $41bn of net purchases during the first quarter. That’s the most in data going back to 2008.

Buffett’s company had disclosed some ramped-up bets ahead of the filing. It expanded wagers tied to oil, with purchases of Occidental Petroleum Corp. stock and a bigger investment in Chevron Corp. that vaulted that holding among Berkshire’s top-four stock bets. The company also built out an investment in Activision Blizzard as part of a merger arbitrage play to wager that the deal with Microsoft Corp. will close. And it moved further into the technology realm with a wager on HP disclosed in April.

The filing Monday reveals that the buying spree went even deeper. Berkshire now owns a $1.13bn stake in chemical maker Celanese, as well as an $895m holding in McKesson. The company also boosted stakes in General Motors Co. and furniture company RH.

Berkshire pulled back on certain bets. The Verizon Communications stake was down 99 per cent in the first three months of the year. The company’s filing no longer showed stakes in AbbVie and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

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