Billionaire Warren Buffett sells all his U.S. airline shares


Berkshire, a U.S. multinational conglomerate holding company, is based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Buffett also let Berkshire's cash stake soar to $137.3 billion as of March 31, reflecting difficulty in finding good places to invest.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc sold its entire stakes in the four largest US airlines in April, Chairman Warren Buffett said Saturday at the company's annual meeting, saying "the world has changed" for the aviation industry.

Then in 2016, Mr Berkshire dove into the industry again, amassing stakes in the four largest U.S. airlines.

The conglomerate had held sizeable positions in the airlines, including an 11 percent stake in Delta Air Lines, 10 percent of American Airlines Co, 10 percent of Southwest Airlines Co and 9 percent of United Airlines at the end of 2019, according to its annual report and company filings.

The two men likely will be asked about the almost US$50 billion loss that Berkshire reported Saturday morning and the huge pile of cash the company is holding.

Buffett said he "made a mistake" investing in the sector, which the pandemic has changed "in a very major way" with no fault of the airlines, leaving limited upside for investors.

The UK's Berkshire Hathaway Inc's equity position in the USA airline industry is estimated at several billion dollars and includes United, American, Southwest, and Delta Airlines.

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Berkshire Hathaway, based in Omaha, Nebraska, called its first-quarter setback "temporary" but said it could not reliably predict when its many businesses would return to normal or when consumers would resume their former buying habits. "It is basically that we shut off air travel in this country". "Never bet against America", he said at the start of the meeting, however warning that the possibilities "are still extraordinarily wide" given the coronavirus crisis.

"I don't know anything you don't know about health matters but I do think the range of possibilities has narrowed down", Buffett said about the coronavirus.

"The world changed for airlines and I wish them well", Mr Buffett said on Saturday. The meeting was streamed by Yahoo Finance. No shareholders were present at the meeting this year, nor was Vice Chairman Charlie Munger.

Buffett, in a statement, played down his company's bleak-looking net figure.

The first-quarter operating earnings rose to $5.87 billion from $5.55 billion dollars, it added.

By that measure, Berkshire Hathaway saw growth to US$5.9 billion from US$5.55 billion a year earlier.

The brutal drop in the net - to a loss of $49.75 billion from a profit previous year of $21.7 billion - resulted primarily from the virus-related decline in value of its broad investment portfolio, which ranges from energy to transport to insurance and technology.