OMAHA, Neb. – Warren Buffett's company has trimmed its stake in Chinese electric car and battery maker BYD for the first time since it bought the shares in 2008, an investment that has soared in value.
Berkshire Hathaway said in a regulatory filing Tuesday with the Hong Kong stock exchange that it had sold 1.33 million of its BYD shares for roughly $47 million ($368.8 million Hong Kong dollars).
Berkshire paid $232 million for the 225 million BYD shares it bought in 2008. By the end of last year, the value of those shares had ballooned to nearly $7.7 billion. The success of the BYD investment is one example of why so many investors follow Buffett's moves closely because he has a remarkably successful track record over the decades.
BYD said in an earnings report this week that sales of its vehicles continued to climb in the first half of this year and help it increase market share, even as auto sales slowed in its home market of China. BYD said its revenue jumped nearly 66% in the first half of this year thanks to the rapid growth in its electric vehicle sales, and its net income more than tripled to $520 million (3.6 billion yuan).
Berkshire said it owned about 7.7% of BYD before the latest stock sales, and that figure won't change much after the sales. Berkshire said its holdings of the Hong Kong-issued shares of BYD dipped slightly from 20.49% to 19.92%.
In the past, Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger have heaped praise on BYD Chairman and founder Wang Chanfu and said they were investing in him even more than in BYD's technology. Munger has said that Wang managed to accomplish several feats that seemed impossible at the time, including taking one-third of the lithium battery market away from Japanese manufacturers by 2010.
Buffett even took the rare step of visiting a BYD factory in China in 2010 to demonstrate his support for the company. Hdidn’t immediately respond Tuesday to questions about the BYD stock sale.
Besides investments, Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate also owns more than 90 companies outright including Geico insurance, BNSF railroad, several major utilities and an eclectic assortment of retail and manufacturing companies such as Dairy Queen, Helzberg Diamonds and Precision Castparts.