Warren Buffett’s conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway bought stock aggressively in last year’s fourth quarter, almost quadrupling its stake in Apple and increasing its stake in the four biggest U.S. airlines by a factor of seven.
As of Dec. 31, Berkshire owns 57.4 million shares of Apple, now worth $7.74 billion, according to a regulatory filing. Three months earlier the company owned just 15.2 million shares.
Berkshire’s initial investment in the iPhone maker attracted attention last year, due to Buffet’s widely-known aversion to technology companies, excluding IBM. Buffet explains his avoidance is a result of feeling outside of his zone of competence.
The new, sizable share makes Berkshire Hathaway one of Apple’s 10 biggest investors. Thomas Russo, a partner at Gardner Russo & Gardner which currently holds 4,912 shares of Berkshire, said: “I’m stunned to see the size of that Apple position.”
Though unclear who made which investments, it is strongly believed that Berkshire’s initial investment in Apple came from Todd Combs or Ted Weschler, Buffet’s deputies. However, there is a precedent for influence, as seen last year when Buffet paid $32.1 billion for Precision Castparts, formerly a Combs investments. Russo seems to entertain this possibility, “It is quite possible Warren woke up and began to understand the virtues of Apple that he had been neglecting, or, like with Precision Castparts, Todd or Ted had an affinity for Apple that sparked interest from Warren.”
The filing also reported a $9.3 billion airline stake, with investments of over $2.1 billion in each of American Airlines Group, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Continental Holdings.
Berkshire further disclosed new stakes in Sirius XM, a satellite radio company, and Monsanto, a seed company being bought by Germany’s Bayer.
The filing appears to reflects a majority of the $12 billion of stock Buffett claims to have bought between the Presidential election on Nov. 8 and the end of January. Larger investments of the holding company, like Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, and International Business Machines are usually made by Buffet, but over the years the billionaire has given his deputies Combs and Weschler more to invest.
Shares of American, Delta, Southwest, and United Airlines, as well as Apple, Monsanto, and Sirius rose in after-hours trading. Increases like these typically occur when investors notice Berkshire has accepted a company into its conglomerate.