Berkshire eliminates Exxon stake amid plunge in oil prices

[NEW YORK] Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway eliminated its holding in Exxon Mobil, exiting a US$3.7 billion investment in the world's largest energy company as oil prices fell.

Berkshire had no holding in the Exxon as of Dec 31, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday from Buffett's Omaha, Nebraska-based company detailing its US stock portfolio. That compares with about 41 million shares three months earlier. Berkshire also increased its investment in agricultural equipment maker Deere & Co and disclosed a stake in 21st Century Fox.

Oil prices have fallen by about half since June amid a glut in production. While Buffett is celebrated as one of the best investors of all time, some of his stock picks faltered last year. He wrote down the value of a holding in Tesco after the British grocer cut profit estimates multiple times. One of his biggest bets, International Business Machines, fell below the price he paid for it.

"Picking stocks is hard and getting them right all the time is impossible," said Cliff Gallant, an analyst at Nomura Holdings.

Berkshire also eliminated a smaller stake in ConocoPhillips. Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil slipped 55 cents to $92.50 in extended trading at 4.42 pm in New York. ConocoPhillips dropped 26 cents to US$69.21.

Berkshire held 17.1 million shares of Deere as of Dec 31, the filing shows. The stake is valued at about US$1.54 billion, based on today's closing price of US$89.92 per share of the Moline, Illinois-based company. Mr Buffett's company held 7.57 million shares of Deere as of Sept 30, according to a document filed Tuesday with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission.

The holding in 21st Century Fox was 4.75 million shares, valued at more than US$160 million based on today's closing price. The New York-based media company is led by billionaire Rupert Murdoch.



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