Buffett's Berkshire invests in Wells Fargo, US Bancorp, J&J

Warren Buffett's company found more bargains among beaten down marquee stocks during the first quarter as it added to its sizable investments in Wells Fargo, US Bancorp and Johnson & Johnson.

Berkshire Hathaway revealed those investments and several other changes to its roughly $41 billion U.S. stock portfolio in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. The filing offers a snapshot of Berkshire's holdings as of March 31.

Berkshire's bank stock purchases are in line with comments Buffett made as his company held its annual shareholder meeting earlier this month. Buffett called US Bancorp USB and Wells Fargo WFC extremely strong banks, and he said he'd be willing to invest in them at current prices.

So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Berkshire bought nearly 12.4 million shares of Wells Fargo during the first quarter, giving it 302.6 million shares of the San Francisco-based bank.

It also added nearly 1.5 million shares of Minneapolis-based US Bancorp, so now it owns 69 million shares.

Berkshire's investments in M&T Bank, SunTrust Banks and Bank of America remained unchanged at the end of the March.

Berkshire officials do not typically comment on the company's investments beyond what the government requires it to disclose, and a spokeswoman said no one was immediately available to comment Friday afternoon.

Berkshire bought 3.9 million shares of Johnson & Johnson JNJ during the quarter, giving it 32.5 million shares. That will replace some of the 33.1 million shares of the New Brunswick, N.J.-based drug and medical products maker Buffett sold last year to free up cash for other investments.

Buffett told shareholders at his annual meeting that he would have rather held onto Berkshire's stake in Johnson & Johnson, but last fall he decided Berkshire needed more cash on hand so it could invest $8 billion in Goldman Sachs Group and General Electric.

The filing does not differentiate between investments Berkshire makes, investments any of its more than 60 subsidiaries make, or investments Buffett himself makes.

Berkshire's 3.4 million shares of Iron Mountain were omitted, suggesting that Berkshire may have sold its stake in the Boston-based data- and document-storage company. A year ago, Berkshire sold 1.3 million shares of Iron Mountain.

But Berkshire regularly asks the Securities and Exchange Commission for the ability not to immediately disclose its holdings when it is making significant changes in an investment. Berkshire says the information could hurt its trading strategy because the market likes to follow what the "Oracle of Omaha's" company does.

Between Dec. 31 and March 31, Berkshire also made several other moves, including:

• Buying 260,900 shares of Nalco Holding, giving Berkshire 9 million shares of the water treatment and processing equipment and services company headquartered in Naperville, Ill.

• Selling 1.8 million shares of health insurer United Health.

• Buying 652,000 shares of the nation's largest railroad company, giving Berkshire nearly 9.6 million shares of Omaha-based Union Pacific.

• Selling 5.6 million shares of used car dealer Carmax., leaving Berkshire with 12 million shares.

Several other changes that were included in this latest filing had already been reported in Berkshire's first quarter earnings report and other SEC filings. That includes reductions in Berkshire's ConocoPhillips and Constellation Energy Group investments and an increase in Berkshire's stake in Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

In addition to its investments, Berkshire owns more than 60 operating companies, including furniture, insurance, jewelry and candy firms, restaurants, natural gas and corporate jet firms.

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