Billionaire Warren Buffett's company has revealed a new investment in struggling Israeli drugmaker Teva Pharmaceuticals and trimmed its holdings in oil refiner Phillips 66 by selling 35 million shares back to the company for US$3.3 billion ($4.5b).
Berkshire Hathaway disclosed those moves and several other tweaks to its stock holdings in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Berkshire said it held 18.9 million shares of Teva at the end of the year, worth about US$360 million.
Teva, the world's No. 1 generic drugmaker, this week detailed a two-year timeline for turning its business around after being hit by competition in its core generic business, the loss of patent protection on its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone and a more than US$30b debt load from its acquisition of Allergan's generics business. It said in December it planned to cut 14,000 jobs, more than one quarter of its global workforce.
Berkshire Hathaway and Phillips 66 said the repurchase will let Buffett's company reduce its investment below the 10 per cent level that triggers additional regulations. That transaction was expected to close today.
Buffett, known as the Oracle of Omaha, said Berkshire plans to continue holding Phillips 66 stock long term. After this, Berkshire will hold 45.7 million shares, or about 9.8 per cent of the Houston-based refiner.
"Phillips 66 is a great company with a diversified downstream portfolio and a strong management team," Buffett said. "This transaction was solely motivated by our desire to eliminate the regulatory requirements that come with ownership levels above 10 per cent."
Berkshire began building its Phillips 66 investment in 2012. Berkshire traded about US$1.4b of its Phillips 66 stock for an additive business in 2013. Berkshire resumed buying shares later.
Aside from those moves, the biggest changes Berkshire made in its portfolio during the fourth quarter was adding to its Apple investment and continuing to sell off its IBM stake.
Berkshire held 165.3 million Apple shares at the end of 2017, up from 134 million at the end of September. Buffett found opportunities to continue buying the iPhone maker even though its shares were selling at premium prices in the fall.
With IBM, Berkshire reported holding a little over 2 million shares. Before last spring, Berkshire held more than 80 million IBM shares. Buffett has been steadily selling IBM shares over the past year because the company hasn't performed as expected since he first bought shares in 2011.
Besides investments, Berkshire owns more than 90 subsidiaries in a variety of industries, including insurance, utilities, railroads, and manufacturing.