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Berkshire Trims Apple, Sells Oracle and Buys Big Banks

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.B), the conglomerate run by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, sold some of its giant stake in Apple Inc. (AAPL), called it quits on Oracle Corp. (ORCL) and used some of its freed-up capital to top up on bank stocks in the last three months of 2018.

The firm’s hotly anticipated 13F filing revealed that it was eager to buy into financials after a sector-wide selloff. Among its top purchases in the fourth quarter were Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM). 

Berkshire also boosted its stake in regional lenders, including PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC) and US Bancorp (USB). Share price across the industry have been lifted by speculation that the recent merger between SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI) and BB&T Corp. (BBT) could pave the way for more deals, reported Bloomberg.

Other than banks, the filing revealed that Berkshire was bullish on insurance firm Travelers Companies Inc. (TRV), auto giant General Motors Co. (GM), Canadian oil and gas producer Suncor Energy Inc. (SU), Brazilian PayPal StoneCo Ltd. (STNE), and Linux- and cloud-based software company specialist Red Hat Inc. (RHT).

Berkshire also did plenty of selling during the fourth quarter. The conglomerate held 249.6 million shares in Apple as of Dec. 31, down from 252.5 million at the end of the prior quarter.

Berkshire’s decision to trim its stake in Apple by 1% came around the same time that parts suppliers cautioned that demand for smartphones was waning. The iPhone maker later confirmed those fears with its own revenue warning, leading its share price to fall considerably. Apple is still Berkshire’s biggest holding, making up about 21.5% of the conglomerate’s portfolio.

Buffett's assistant Debbie Bosanek told Reuters, "One of the managers other than Warren had a position in Apple and sold part of it in order to make an unrelated purchase. None of the shares under Warren's direction have ever been sold."

More drastic action was taken against Oracle Corp. (ORCL). Berkshire called it quits on the software firm, having bought a $2.1 billion stake in it in the third quarter.

Oracle’s shares fell 1.88% in pre-market trading, while Apple was down 0.83%.

Other sells included Phillips 66 (PSX), United Airlines Holdings Inc. (UAL), Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR).