How Berkshire Hathaway’s Combs and Weschler Performed in 2014

After outperforming the S&P 500 and Warren Buffett in both 2012 and 2013, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler may have underperformed  the S&P 500 in 2014.

Combs and Weschler are each managing about $7.5 billion of the $120 billion equity portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B).  Their largest investments, DirecTV (DTV) and DaVita (DVA), performed very well, with each outperforming the S&P 500 by about 10 percentage points.  DTV (Combs and Weschler) and DVA  (Weschler) are each currently valued at more than $2.5 billion.

However, their investments in General Motors ($1.3 billion) (Weschler) is down 20% this year, and Chicago Bridge & Iron ($500 million) (Combs) has lost about 50% of its value.  By contrast, the S&P 500 has risen over 10% in 2014.  Other declines in the Combs and Weschler portfolios include National Oilwell Varco (NOV), Suncor Energy (SU), Viacom (VIAB), and Liberty Media (LMCA).  However, the following Combs/Weschler investments rose in 2014: Charter Communications (CHTR), Liberty Global (LBTYA), Mastercard (MA), Visa (V), Precision Castparts (PCP), and Wabco (WBC).

Calculating the returns to the Combs and Weschler portfolios from outside the company is a combination of art and science since Berkshire does not reveal who is responsible for each pick in its Form 13F filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Nor does it list when shares were acquired or when they were sold and at what prices. 

With respect to Warren Buffett’s performance in 2014, his largest equity investment, Wells Fargo (WFC), rose about 25% in 2014 and is currently valued at about $27 billion.  His next three largest investments are Coca-Cola (KO) ($17 billion) (+5%), American Express ($14 billion) (+8%), and IBM (IBM) ($11 billion) (- 13%).

I am quoted in a Bloomberg article on this topic:

“It appears, on first glance, that Todd and Ted have underperformed the S&P 500 this year,” said David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business who has studied Berkshire’s portfolio.

The entire article is available at:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-18/buffett-s-backup-stock-pickers-stumble-as-gm-declines.html?cmpid=yhoo

 

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  1. Next year will be 50th anniversary for which Mr Buffett is preparing a significant writing. It will be worth reading it.

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