Buffett Divests from PetroChina

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 10/19/2007 06:51:00 PM
Berkshire Hathaway has just unloaded all of its PetroChina holdings. We are again faced with the classic question here: did he jump or was he pushed? Concerned shareholders and activists have been encouraging legendary investor Warren Buffett to rid Berkshire Hathaway of its PetroChina stock for the Chinese firm's parent company, CNPC, has been a major investor in Sudan. It's hard to give an answer to this question. Although Buffett won't admit it, PetroChina has become a toxic magnet for the famously publicity-shy Buffett (why else operate out of Omaha?) Like most other Chinese equities, PetroChina is richly valued on top of that, so why not sell now? Speaking economically, the costs of holding PetroChina may have become greater than the benefits. From the BBC:

Warren Buffett's investment company Berkshire Hathaway has made a $3.5bn (£1.7bn) profit though the sale of its shares in Chinese oil firm PetroChina.

Mr Buffett said the sale was based solely on price, rebuffing suggestions he was reacting to criticism of PetroChina's links with Sudan.

Earlier this year some shareholders had urged Berkshire to sell its PetroChina stake because of the Sudan issue.

Berkshire bought 11% of PetroChina's public shares in 2006 for $500m.

In May, at Berkshire's annual general meeting rebel shareholders argued that PetroChina - through its government-owned parent China National Petroleum - was too closely linked with the Sudanese government.

Sudan's government continues to be criticised by Western governments for atrocities in the troubled Darfur region.

The rebel proposal to sell the PetroChina stake, which Mr Buffett opposed, was successfully defeated.

At the time, Mr Buffett said that while conditions in Darfur were deplorable, selling the PetroChina investment would not improve them.