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Stock Jumps After Buffett's Letter

March 14, 2000|Bloomberg News, Times Staff

Maybe Warren Buffett's shareholders felt pity after the self-flagellation he undertook in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway owners, published last weekend.

Or maybe it was just the hope that he'll end their recent misery with a stock buyback program by Berkshire.

Berkshire's Class B shares soared $118, or 8.6%, to $1,488 a share on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. The Class A shares jumped $3,500 to $44,800.

Buffett said the company would consider buying back its shares, given their plunge from 52-week highs of $2,615 and $79,300, respectively.

A share buyback would mark a change of tack for Buffett, who has also avoided splitting the company's shares.

Buffett said in his annual letter that he considered buying shares back from shareholders when the Class A stock fell below $45,000 in February, but he decided to wait until shareholders had a chance to review the letter.

Buffett, 69, warned of a long-term slowdown in U.S. stock prices while accepting blame for Berkshire's poor stock performance last year, thanks to a portfolio lacking technology stocks and loaded with troubled shares such as Coca-Cola and Gillette.

Meanwhile, Berkshire's official filings show Walt Disney was not among its top holdings at the end of last year, indicating the once-substantial investment stake has been pared or perhaps eliminated entirely.

But Disney stock eased just 19 cents to $34.94 on Monday, suggesting that investors, conscious of Buffett's recent track record with other stocks, aren't terribly worried if he has been getting out of Disney.

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