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Buffett’s Berkshire edges closer to 20% Occidental stake

Randy Mancini 14 Jul 19

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) -Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc purchased another 1.94 million shares of Occidental Petroleum Corp, giving it an $11.4 billion stake and putting it nearer a threshold where it could record some of the oil company’s earnings with its own.

Berkshire’s latest purchases from July 14 to July 18 cost $112 million, and gave Buffett’s conglomerate a 19.4% stake in Occidental, or 181.7 million shares, regulatory filings show.

If it reached 20% ownership, Berkshire could report its proportionate share of Houston-based Occidental’s earnings, through the so-called equity method of accounting, potentially adding billions of dollars to annual profit.

Analysts on average expect Occidental to post about $10.7 billion of net income this year, according to Refinitiv I/B/E/S.

Occidental shares closed up 4.6% at $62.82 on Tuesday. The share price has more than doubled this year, benefiting from rising oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire also has warrants to buy another 83.9 million Occidental shares for $5 billion.

It also owns $10 billion of Occidental preferred stock, which helped finance the 2019 purchase of Anadarko Petroleum and generates $800 million of annual dividends.

Berkshire uses the equity method of accounting for its 26.6% stake in packaged food company Kraft Heinz Co, which it controls with Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital.

Though some analysts and investors have speculated that Berkshire could eventually buy all of Occidental, Berkshire could contend that its accounting should remain unchanged because its stake is passive.

Berkshire also owns dozens of companies, including the BNSF railroad, Geico car insurance and several energy companies, and stocks including Apple Inc, Bank of America Corp and another oil company, Chevron Corp.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Oatis)