A lot has been said about Warren Buffett and the energy sector in recent weeks, as the Oracle of Omaha seems to have set his sights on the renewable arena. And Carl Icahn, while focusing his attention elsewhere as of late (ahem, Family Dollar and Gannett), has long been a major mover and shaker in energy (as in his 72-million-share stake in CVR Energy).
But can Icahn and Buffett be categorized as energy bulls? Not exactly, according to iBillionaire’s research into the investment holdings of these two billionaires.
Buffett: A Story of Sell-Offs and Spin-Offs
Warren Buffett’s interest in the energy sector seems to have surged and waned in recent quarters. The billionaire has concentrated his energy investments in five main companies – National Oilwell Varco (NOV), Phillips 66 (PSX), ConocoPhillips (COP), Suncor Energy (SU) and Exxon Mobil (XOM) – as well as new National Oilwell spin-off NOW Inc. (DNOW).
During the second quarter of this year, Buffett scaled back his positions in three of those entities – National Oilwell Varco, Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips. He upped the ante in Suncor, left his Exxon allocation untouched and initiated a position in NOW.
Buffett initially invested in Phillips 66 when it split from ConocoPhillips in 2012. In Q1, he cut his position by over 17 million PSX shares, and in Q2, he sold off an additional 3.24 million. He unloaded 9.72 million COP assets last quarter, continuing to shave down a position reported as large as 42.3 million shares in 2009.
The billionaire also scaled back his allocation in National Oilwell Varco, a position he’s held since Q2 2012. He has taken a play out of his PSX-COP playbook with this one, however, investing in the company’s distribution spin-off NOW with the purchase of 229,000 shares.
Buffett’s energy play seems to be one of diversification that also entails investing in the spinoffs of companies he’s already backed. And though his bets seem to be doing quite well – all but Exxon are in the green for the year – when it comes to the overall allocation of his portfolio, energy is losing ground.
In recent quarters, Warren Buffett’s overall allocation in the sector has declined, going from 7.82% in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 6.33% in Q1 and 5.72% in Q2. He has instead increased his weighting in financials, a longtime Buffett favorite, including companies like Wells Fargo and American Express.
It’s worth noting that Buffett’s recent sells – namely, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 – are also the top performers in the group, the former climbing 50.21% from Q1 2013 to Q2 2014, and the latter 59.04% in the same period. In other words, the billionaire has cashed out for profits.
Icahn Energy Picks Lose Ground to Better Performers
Carl Icahn’s energy bets are long and large and, like Buffett’s, concentrated on a handful of companies: CVR Energy (CVI), Talisman Energy (TLM), CVR Refining (CVRR) and iBillionaire Index components Transocean (RIG) and Chesapeake Energy (CHK). The billionaire has maintained his positions in the aforementioned companies in recent quarters, with the exception of CVRR Refining, of which he sold nearly a million shares in Q2. In terms of portfolio allocation, though, energy has been losing ground to other and perhaps more lucrative positions.
While the energy sector comprised 35.85% of Icahn’s equity portfolio in Q1 2013, as of this most recent quarter, it represented just 19.26% of his holdings. Consumer discretionary, however, has gone from 13.23% to 20.68%, and technology from 3.91% to 16.59%.
With the exception of Chesapeake Energy, the price of which climbed over 70% from the start of 2013 through mid-2014, Icahn’s energy picks have had an average performance over the past six quarters.
Some of the billionaire’s other picks, on the other hand, have performed much better. The price of Apple, of which Icahn most recently reported holding 52.76 million shares, climbed +26.35% from the start of the first quarter of 2013 to the end of the second quarter of this year. Herbalife, of which the billionaire holds 17 million shares, rose 136.66%, and American Railcar Industries is up 110.20%.
Just how bullish are Buffett and Icahn when it comes to energy? Enough to hold onto a set of core companies, but not so much that other sectors aren’t gaining ground.