Warren Buffett says he avoided a big bill by selling the “big four” airline stocks last year.The US government might have refused them aid if Berkshire still owned their stocks.Berkshire sold bank stocks to reduce its exposure to the industry, Buffett said.See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The famed investor said that the federal government might have refused to help Delta, Southwest, American, and United last spring if Berkshire still owned between 8% and 11% of them. US officials might have told them to get the money from Berkshire, which boasted more than $120 billion of cash and short-term investments at the time.
“You’re looking at probably a different result than if we had kept our stock,” Buffett said.
Buffett offered other fresh insights into his thinking at Berkshire’s meeting. For example, he explained why Berkshire eliminated its Goldman Sachs position, slashed its JPMorgan and Wells Fargo stakes, and took a knife to several other financial holdings last year.
“We didn’t like having as much money in banks as we had at the time,” Buffett said.
The Berkshire chief also commented on how tight liquidity became before the Federal Reserve stepped in to help last year.
“They took a market where Berkshire couldn’t sell bonds a day before, and turned it into one where Carnival Cruise or whatever could sell them,” Buffett said.