WARREN BUFFETT Quote : Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.
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Friday, May 15, 2009

Berkshire Added to Wells Fargo Stake as Shares Fell

By Erik Holm

May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. added to holdings of lenders Wells Fargo & Co and U.S. Bancorp in the first quarter as the shares traded at their lowest prices in more than a decade.

Buffett’s firm, the largest shareholder in San Francisco- based Wells Fargo, increased its holding in the bank by about 4.3 percent in the first quarter to 302.6 million shares, Berkshire said in a regulatory filing today disclosing its U.S. stock portfolio as of March 31. Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire increased its holding of U.S. Bancorp by about 2.2 percent.

Banks that attract deposits at low rates were undervalued in the first quarter because investors wrongly believed that the entire industry was hobbled by risky bets and reckless lending, Buffett said at Berkshire’s annual meeting earlier this month. The KBW Bank Index fell 37 percent in the first quarter.

“All banks aren’t alike by a long shot, and in our view Wells Fargo, among the large banks, has some advantages the others do not,” said Buffett, Berkshire’s chief executive officer and chairman, at the company’s May 2 annual meeting.

Wells Fargo shares closed at $24.87 today on the New York Stock Exchange after falling below $9 in March. Buffett said he was speaking to a class the day the shares dropped that low and told students that, at such a price, “If I had to put all of my net worth into stock, that would be the stock.”

‘Major Mistake’

Berkshire spent $624 million on stocks in the quarter, and sold shares of companies including oil producer ConocoPhillips for $739 million, Buffett said in a separate filing last week. The decline in ConocoPhillips stock contributed to Berkshire’s worst quarterly loss in at least two decades as Buffett, 78, worked to recover from what he called his “major mistake” of buying the shares with oil prices near their peak.
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