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Buffett buys back record $5.1 billion in Berkshire stock as coronavirus hits operating earnings

Warren Buffett

Gerard Miller | CNBC

Berkshire Hathaway announced on Saturday it bought back a record amount of its own stock during the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic dented operations for Warren Buffett’s conglomerate. 

The company said it repurchased a total of $5.1 billion worth in stock in May and June. Berkshire repurchased more than $4.6 billion of its Class B stock and about $486.6 million in Class A shares.

The share repurchase is the most ever in a single period for Buffett, nearly double the $2.2 billion the conglomerate bought back in the final quarter of 2019. In fact, the amount is slightly more than what Buffett spent buying back Berkshire stock in all of 2019.

Those buybacks come during a tough period for some of Berkshire’s wholly owned businesses as the pandemic thwarted economic activity in the U.S. and across the globe.

Berkshire’s operating profit fell 10% during the second quarter, dropping to $5.51 billion from $6.14 billion in the year-earlier period. The company also took a charge of approximately $10 billion from Precision Castparts, Berkshire’s largest business within its manufacturing segment.

To be sure, Berkshire benefited from a $34.5 billion gain from its investments in the public markets. 

Berkshire is heavily invested in several companies that have rallied since the broader stock market bottomed in late March. Apple — Berkshire’s biggest common stock holding — has nearly doubled since March 23. JPMorgan Chase is up more than 27% over that time period and Amazon has popped more than 66%.

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Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Berkshire’s operating profits fell 10% to $5.51 billion. A previous version of this story misstated the figure. 

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