Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. sold more than 7 million shares of Wells Fargo & Co. stock and plans to divest additional shares to get below the Federal Reserve’s 10 percent threshold for ownership in a bank.
“These sales are not being made because of investment or valuation considerations,” Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said Wednesday in a statement. “Rather, they are solely motivated by the desire to return to a percentage ownership below the 10 percent notification threshold.”
U.S. rules have long curtailed the influence of outsiders on banks. None of the other top four lenders in the nation can claim a single investor with a holding the size of Buffett’s Wells Fargo stake. The billionaire disclosed in a filing last year that his position climbed to 10 percent because the bank had been buying back its own stock.
“After several months of discussions with representatives of the Federal Reserve, we have concluded that the commitments that would be required of us by the Federal Reserve to retain ownership of 10 percent or more of Wells Fargo’s outstanding common stock would materially restrict our commercial activity with Wells Fargo,” Berkshire said in the statement. “Therefore, it would be simpler to keep our ownership below 10 percent.”
Berkshire said it plans to sell 1.87 million shares soon, on top of the 7.13 million sold this week. Buffett oversaw about 500 million shares as of Dec. 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.