Warren Buffett’s Berkshire offloads more shares in Chinese EV giant BYD

Published Fri, Sep 2, 2022 · 06:54 PM

WARREN Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway trimmed its stake in BYD even further, offloading another 1.72 million shares as of Sep 1, according to an exchange filing Friday, just days after the legendary US investor began reducing his holding in China’s biggest maker of electric vehicles.

Berkshire’s interest in BYD’s Hong Kong-listed shares has now fallen to 18.87 per cent from 19.02 per cent, with the latest securities sold for an average of HK$262.72 apiece, giving the stake a value of around HK$450.8 million (S$80 million). That takes Berkshire’s total shares jettisoned to 3.05 million, or 1.4 per cent of Buffett’s known 225-million-share holding.

Theories about Buffett’s plans for the bellwether Chinese electric car company have swirled since a 20.49 per cent stake – identical to the size of Berkshire’s last reported BYD position in Hong Kong as of the end of June – entered the Central Clearing and Settlement System in July, a sign to investors a sale may be imminent. That triggered the biggest slump in BYD stock in nearly 2 years.

“We may see some continued selling from Buffett,” Daisy Li, a fund manager at EFG Asset Management HK, said. “In the short term, it will be hard for investor sentiment surrounding BYD’s Hong Kong shares to recover, while its shares listed onshore may be less affected. In the long term, the share performance will still depend on company fundamentals and product cycles.”

News of the actual first sale on Tuesday afternoon sparked renewed selling, with BYD stock falling almost 13 per cent, before clawing back almost half of the declines. The shares, which jumped 31 per cent last year and an impressive 423 per cent in 2020, are down 14 per cent this year.

A BYD official, in comments earlier this week to a Chinese newspaper, said there’s “no need to over-interpret” the stake sale, adding that the company’s operations remain normal.

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According to calculations based on BYD’s interim report and the investor’s latest filings, Buffett has sold about 18 million shares since Jun 30 through Sep 1, suggesting there may be more public disclosures to come. Berkshire, which first bought 225 million shares in September 2008, has been by far the largest shareholder in the EV giant.

The Buffett-BYD offloading came days after BYD reported robust financial earnings for the 6 months ended Jun 30, with net income tripling to the top end of forecast. Revenue, though, fell short of estimates.

BYD, regardless of whether or not Buffett continues to be a backer, is in a commanding position. It’s China’s biggest maker of electric cars with a market share approaching 30 per cent and is the world’s third-largest battery maker. The Shenzhen-based firm is also selling record numbers of cleaner cars.

Bloomberg analysts Steven Man and Joanna Chen said in a research note on Aug 31 that BYD’s growth momentum remained strong despite Buffett’s stake sale. They pointed to the deep vertical integration that allows BYD to boost production and secure higher EV profits while peers jostle for cost-effective parts and supplies. BLOOMBERG

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