Berkshire Hathaway Inc. took a stake in Deere & Co. as billionaire Chairman Warren Buffett entrusts more of the company’s investment portfolio to deputy stock pickers.
Berkshire held 3.98 million shares of the agricultural equipment maker on Sept. 30, Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based firm said today in a filing disclosing U.S. stockholdings at the end of the third quarter. Deere advanced 0.7 percent to $85.35 in extended trading at 5:40 p.m. in New York.
Buffett, 82, has been handing more responsibility to Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, the former hedge-fund managers he hired to help oversee part of the company’s $88 billion equity portfolio. Buffett said in July that each would probably oversee about $4 billion, compared with $2.75 billion at the beginning of the year.
Weschler and Combs “seem to get more free rein as the quarters progress,” which shows Buffett is gaining confidence in their abilities, said Josh Brown, who helps oversee about $350 million at Fusion Analytics Investment Partners LLC in New York, including Berkshire shares. “That’s probably a good trend. You hate to see it the other way around.”
Berkshire also disclosed stakes in Precision Castparts Corp., the maker of metal components, and Wabco Holdings Inc., the manufacturer of braking and suspension systems for commercial vehicles.
Buffett’s company had about 1.2 million shares in Portland, Oregon-based Precision Castparts, which closed at $173.30 today. Piscataway, New Jersey-based Wabco advanced 33 percent this year to $57.64. Berkshire has 1.6 million shares.
Buffett has served more than four decades as Berkshire’s chief executive officer, capital allocator and head of investments, building the firm through acquisitions and equity bets. His stock picks are watched by mutual funds and individuals looking for clues about his strategy.
The billionaire has said he oversees the company’s larger holdings, including stakes in Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., while his deputies are responsible for smaller bets. In the past two years, Berkshire has added stakes in companies such as General Motors Co. and DirecTV. Combs’s hiring was announced in 2010 and Weschler’s in 2011.
Buffett increased a bet on Wells Fargo and remains the largest shareholder in the bank, with a stake of about 8 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Buffett has said the San Francisco-based company’s dominance in home lending will pay off as the housing market rebounds.
“They’ve got a sensational mortgage operation,” Buffett told Bloomberg Television’s Betty Liu in July. “The total mortgage market was at the $3 trillion level not that long ago. If it goes back up to $3 trillion, I hope Wells is doing a third of those.”
Berkshire exited stakes in retailers Dollar General Corp. and CVS Caremark Corp. and said its holding of payments network Visa Inc. fell by 25 percent to 1.55 million shares, Berkshire slashed its stake in General Electric Co. 88 percent to less than 600,000 shares.
Buffett’s company increased its stake in Viacom Inc., owner of Comedy Central and MTV cable channels, by 12 percent to 7.6 million shares. The stakes in National Oilwell Varco Inc. and General Motors also increased.
The billionaire continued cutting stakes in consumer-products firms such as Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble Co. and Kraft Foods Inc., which split after the third quarter’s end into Mondelez International Inc. and Kraft Foods Group Inc.