Wells Fargo Rally Highlights Warren Buffett's Mistake in Selling Big Stakes

Berkshire Hathaway has sold almost all of its Wells Fargo & Co. holdings to stay under the 10 percent threshold. The company has been plagued by scandals for mistreating customers and other issues. The company is one of Warren Buffett’s largest investments, with around $32 billion in total assets. In January of this year, Berkshire sold nearly all of its Wells Fargo stock, selling a total of nine million shares.

The company is one of the few stocks that Buffett hasn’t gotten rid of in recent years. He sold a large stake in Wells Fargo, as a way to boost his return. In January, he sold his entire stake in Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Since then, the company has rallied, and he’s left $15 billion on the table.

In February, Buffett cut his Wells Fargo stake to a 17-year low. He urged his board to fire the bank’s CEO and to hire a CEO from Wall Street. He’s been critical of big bank management for decades, but his decision to sell his massive stake this year has saved the company a great deal. And as a result, it is more profitable than ever.

Wells Fargo Rally Highlights Warren Buffett's Mistake in Selling Big Stakes

A good example of Warren Buffett’s mistakes is the Apple saga. It’s hard to argue that Apple was an investment that a big bank should not have made. Yet, Apple’s stock has gone on to climb over $17,000 in the past four years. But even though the stock is currently a bargain, Buffett’s move to sell his stake may have cost him dearly.

This year, Warren Buffett’s stock portfolio remains incredibly concentrated in a few companies. In January 2018, he bought $32 billion worth of Wells Fargo, and the company was able to grow at a faster rate than most other companies. But this was the mistake. In October, he sold a quarter of his holdings in the company. The stock’s value has doubled since.

In the second quarter, Buffett’s shares of Chevron, General Electric, and Financial Post were all reduced by more than half. In December, he cut his Chevron stake by 51% and sold almost all of his Wells Fargo stock. Currently, his holdings amount to more than US$20 billion, and his stocks have gone through a major reversal.

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After the market’s first quarter, Buffett had already sold all of his financial stock. It has also recently remained under a regulatory asset cap. However, the market is in a period of correction and investors should not sell Wells Fargo stock until that time. The price of its shares has dropped more than 30 percent since it was purchased. Its recent performance is not indicative of a turnaround in the bank’s financial situation.