Berkshire Added to Monsanto Stake as Bayer Deal Nears Completion

(Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. boosted its bet on Monsanto Co. as the company moved closer to completing a takeover by Germany’s Bayer AG.

Berkshire increased its stake in the the world’s biggest seed company by 62 percent to 19 million shares, which were worth $2.2 billion at the end of the first quarter, it said in a regulatory filing Tuesday. The filing misspells Monsanto’s name as Mosanto.

Bayer seems all but set to take over Monsanto this quarter as it wraps up final regulatory approvals. Bayer’s Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann said earlier this month that the company was “very confident” about closing the deal before the end of June and Monsanto executives including CEO Hugh Grant have already announced intentions to depart following the $66 billion transaction’s closing.

A wave of consolidation is leaving the seed and crop chemicals industry with a handful of megacompanies. Bayer-Monsanto is seeking antitrust clearance after two previous deals -- the combination of Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. and China National Chemical Corp.’s takeover of Syngenta AG -- have received it.

Apple, IBM

The filing also included details on Berkshire’s increased stake in Apple Inc. and the exit of its bet on International Business Machines Corp., which Buffett had previously disclosed. Berkshire owns 240 million shares of Apple, according to Tuesday’s filing.

Buffett praised Apple at his annual shareholder meeting this month for the company’s “incredible” consumer product. He’s lauded Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook for his capital deployment skills and has said he’d be glad if Berkshire’s stake in the technology company climbs even higher because of share buybacks.

Buffett finished cutting his stake in IBM as he reversed his call on the company, which he said last year ran into “tough” competitors. Berkshire held just about 2 million shares of IBM at the end of 2017, down from about 65 million shares in the first quarter of 2017.

Berkshire more than doubled its stake in Israeli drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., which it first took last year. Buffett has clarified that the investment was made by one of his deputy stock pickers and not by him. That company has been in the throes of a turnaround. Saddled with debt, Teva has been cutting its workforce and closing factories to cut costs.

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