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Buffett's Berkshire Reports New Stakes In DaVita, Liberty Media

By Erik Holm Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRKA, BRKB) revealed new investments in DaVita Inc. (DVA) and Liberty Media, though both holdings were small enough to suggest they may not have been made by the company's famed leader. Berkshire held 2.68 million shares of DaVita, one of the largest U.S. providers of dialysis services, as of Dec. 31, according to a regulatory filing released Tuesday. The stake was worth $203 million. The 1.7 million Liberty Media shares were valued at $132 million at the end of the year. The company is a media conglomerate controlled by John Malone. Buffett's company also reported additional shares of Intel Corp. (INTC), Visa Inc. (V), General Dynamics Corp. (GD), CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS) and DirecTV Group Inc. (DTV). Berkshire had first reported owning stakes in these companies earlier this year. All but the DirecTV stake were worth less than $300 million at year-end, and because of their size, many Buffett watchers have concluded they were likely the work of Todd Combs, a relatively new Berkshire investment manager. The company also reported increased holdings in a long-held position in Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), a Buffett favorite. Berkshire reported smaller stakes in Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), according to the filing. It also appeared to have exited a position in Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM). The changes in Berkshire's equity portfolio were made in the last three months of 2011, when the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Stock Index rose 11%. Buffett, one of the world's richest people, wrote on Fortune magazine's website last week that investing in stocks or buying "first-class businesses" outright are far better options over the long term than bonds or gold, two assets that "enjoy maximum popularity at peaks of fear." Berkshire's total U.S. stock investments were worth $66.2 billion as of Dec. 31, up from the $59.1 billion Berkshire reported a quarter earlier. Buffett's company, like other firms that control an investment portfolio of more than $100 million, is required to report its U.S. stock holdings 45 days after the end of a given quarter. News about Berkshire's stock picks has the power to move the market. Some money managers use the disclosure to mimic the investment success of the "Oracle of Omaha." Buffett, 81, has long warned that not all the moves in the investment portfolio are his. A portion of the portfolio was long managed by Lou Simpson, the investment manager at Berkshire-owned car insurer Geico Corp. He stepped down a year ago and Buffett has named two new money managers: Combs and Ted Weschler, who was to join Berkshire early this year after winding down his hedge fund, Peninsula Capital Advisors LLC. Each of the two men has about $3 billion to investment initially, Buffett has said. But they will gradually get more of Berkshire's money to invest over time and may be joined by a third investment manager. Upon Buffett's eventual departure from the company, the managers would take over Berkshire's entire stock and debt portfolio. Berkshire also showed a stake of 63.9 million shares of International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), up from 57.3 million at the end of the third quarter. Buffett had disclosed that position on CNBC in November. -By Erik Holm, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2892; erik.holm@dowjones.com

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