Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has sold its entire holdings in U.S. airlines in the wake of the coronavirus that has led to a virtual standstill of the industry and revenue losses in the billions.
Buffet revealed the news to shareholders on Saturday, according to a Reuters report, which included that the conglomerate had some $7 to $8 billion invested in the airline industry:
Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) sold its entire stakes in the four largest U.S. airlines in April, Chairman Warren Buffett said Saturday at the company’s annual meeting, saying “the world has changed” for the aviation industry.
The conglomerate had held sizeable positions in the airlines, including an 11% stake in Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), 10% of American Airlines Co (AAL.O), 10% of Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and 9% of United Airlines (UAL.O) at the end of 2019, according to its annual report and company filings.
U.S. airlines are cutting hundreds of thousands of flights, parking thousands of planes as U.S. travel demand has fallen by about 95 percent and there is no clear timetable for passengers to return to flights at pre-crisis levels.
“We made that decision in terms of the airline business,” Buffet said. “We took money out of the business basically even at a substantial loss. We will not fund a company that — where we think that it is going to chew up money in the future.”
Highlight: Buffett on why he sold $6B in airline stock: "I just decided that I made a mistake in valuing… The companies we bought were well-managed… I don't know whether two or three years from now that as many people will fly as many passenger miles as they did." #YFBuffett pic.twitter.com/Whw28DrURN
— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) May 2, 2020
Bershire had already sold 18 percent of its Delta stake and four percent of Southwest shares, it announced on April 3.
“We did not take out anything like $7 or $8 billion and that was my mistake,” Buffett said at the company’s virtual annual meeting. “I am the one who made the decision.”
“Buffett previously expressed grim sentiments about the financial outlook for airlines,” Reuters reported. “He did invest in USAir in 1989.”
“If a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down,” Buffett wrote in his annual letter to shareholders in 2007. “Investors have poured money into a bottomless pit, attracted by growth when they should have been repelled by it.”
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