Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway loses billionaire Bill Ackman as an investor
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathawayhas lost Bill Ackmanas an investor.
- The hedge-fund manager revealed the sale of his
Pershing Squarefund's $1 billion Berkshire stake in a conference call on Wednesday.
- Pershing sold Berkshire in the past few weeks to free up cash so it can capitalize if prices fall again, Ackman said on the call.
- The move is surprising, as Ackman boosted his Berkshire holdings by more than a third in the first quarter.
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Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has lost the billionaire hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman as an investor.
Ackman revealed the sale of his Pershing Square fund's $1 billion stake in Berkshire — and its exit from much smaller positions in Blackstone and Park Hotels & Resorts — in a conference call on Wednesday. Berkshire accounted for just over 15% of Pershing Square's $6.6 billion stock portfolio at the end of March.
Pershing Square sold its Berkshire stake in the past few weeks to free up cash so it can capitalize if juicy
"Today, we have $10 billion of capital to invest; we can be much more nimble," he said, highlighting Pershing's smaller size relative to Berkshire.
"And so our view was generally we should take advantage of that nimbleness, preserve some extra liquidity in the event that prices get more attractive again."
Pershing Square confirmed the sale to Business Insider but declined to comment further. Bloomberg first reported the news.
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On the conference call, Ryan Israel, a partner at Pershing, elaborated on the decision to dump Berkshire.
While Pershing's bosses expect Berkshire to be a "strong investment over the longer term," their view is that "the current environment means there may be more than typical opportunities for us to see very high-returning investments," Israel said.
Israel said Berkshire had showcased the quality of its subsidiaries and made strides toward boosting its profit margins relative to peers during the recent downturn.
However, he added, Buffett's company has bucked Pershing's expectations by not deploying its $137 billion in cash reserves to buy stocks and other securities, acquire companies, strike deals, and repurchase shares.
If Berkshire does put its cash to work in the short term, Israel argued, it will likely be during a period when Pershing also enjoys a choice of enticing investment options.
Following the Berkshire sale, Pershing will be armed with enough cash to take advantage of them and be able to move more nimbly than Berkshire because of its smaller size, Ackman added.
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Still, Ackman's exit from Berkshire is surprising. Pershing invested in Berkshire only last year and boosted its stake in the company by more than a third, to about 5.5 million shares, in the first quarter. Those shares were valued at almost $1 billion at the end of March.
Moreover, Ackman has repeatedly praised the famed investor and his business.
"Berkshire Hathaway was built by Warren Buffett to withstand a global economic shock like this one," he wrote in Pershing's 2019 annual report.
"We believe that Berkshire will emerge from this crisis as a more valuable enterprise," he added.
Ackman famously turned $27 million into $2.6 billion by hedging his fund against the coronavirus sell-off, offsetting the damage to its equity portfolio.
He used the windfall in March to boost Pershing's stakes in Berkshire as well as Hilton, Lowe's, and Burger King-parent Restaurant Brands, and to reinvest in Starbucks.
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