Warren Buffett’s Most Significant New Sells

Wal-Mart and Suncor Energy fell out of favor with the iconic long-term investor during the second quarter.

Warren Buffett’s long-term approach to stock picking is the stuff of legend and that means that, when he decides to sell a stock, it rates as must-know news. Fortunately, Buffett’s stock sales are reported every quarter to the SEC, and that means that investors don’t have to be caught flat-footed owning something that the Oracle of Omaha is unloading.

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Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway manages a $132 billion stock portfolio, and because Buffett concentrates his money in a small number of stocks, the number of shares he owns in each company can be staggering. Put simply, it can take a couple of quarters for Buffett to sell out of any one particular investment.

That fact might be worth remembering given that, while Buffett sold more than $1.1 billion in Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) stock in the second quarter, he still holds 40.2 million shares valued at a stunning $2.95 billion.



While Wal-Mart remains Berkshire Hathaway’s eighth-biggest holding, it may not be that big of a position for much longer.

In May, Buffett told CNBC that Wal-Mart is under a lot of pressure to compete with Amazon.com, Inc., and that’s got Wal-Mart playing hardball with its suppliers. If Wal-Mart’s talking tough with vendors because it feels Amazon nipping at its heels, then Buffett could be worrying that a profit-busting price war is approaching.

The possibility of market share shifting to Amazon from Wal-Mart, or profit falling due to aggressive discounting, isn’t reassuring. Thus, Buffett’s selling of Wal-Mart may not be done.

AMZN Revenue (TTM) Chart


Refining his stake

Buffett also sold 7.7 million shares of Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU) last quarter.



Berkshire Hathaway still owned 22.3 million shares of the oil sands production and refining company heading into July, but it wouldn’t shock me if he’s still selling and that position gets even smaller this quarter.

Suncor Energy recently reported a second-quarter operating loss of $565 million, and in the first quarter, the company delivered an operating loss of $500 million. The company’s second-quarter loss was due to shuttered oil sands production because of forest fires, while the first-quarter loss was due to falling crude oil prices.

Although the second-quarter production shutdown was temporary, it reinforces the quarter-to-quarter risk associated with oil production companies. Couple that production risk with the fact that oil prices could remain dormant for a while, and you get a company that’s dealing with a lot of profit uncertainty.

Therefore, while Suncor has refining and retail operations that should lessen the negative impact of oil price drops, this year’s losses suggest they’re providing insulation that is inadequate. If true, that could be reason enough for Buffett to exit this stock.

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Todd Campbell owns shares of Amazon.com. Todd owns E.B. Capital Markets, LLC. E.B. Capital’s clients may have positions in the companies mentioned. Like this article? Follow him on Twitter where he goes by the handle @ebcapital to see more articles like this.

The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com and Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.