Buffett Becomes BofA's Biggest Shareholder, Sits On Big Profit

Aug 30, 2017

Billionaire Warren Buffett's investment company became Bank of America's biggest stockholder this week and it’s already sitting on a big profit.

Berkshire Hathaway’s purchase of 700 million Bank of America shares has been six years in the making. Back in 2011, the company invested $5 billion in the bank, at a time when BofA’s stock was trading in the single digits.

Warren Buffett

"I came in at a time when people were particularly critical of the institution and, to some extent, the management, and I believed they were wrong," Buffett said in an interview on Bloomberg TV Wednesday.  

Buffett said he actually got the idea to invest one day while he was in the bathtub. He called CEO Brian Moynihan and made a deal for the preferred shares.

At the time, BofA was dealing with fallout from past mergers, including big mortgage lender Countrywide Financial. Berkshire initially bought what's called preferred stock, which came with the right to convert to common stock at just over $7 a share.

Today, the stock sells for more than triple that amount. Berkshire converted its shares this week, and now that original $5 billion investment is worth more than $16.5 billion.

Buffett also has been collecting $300 million a year in dividends on the preferred stock - and now that will be bigger, too.

"We will be getting $30-plus million more annually from owning the common than the preferred. We had announced that if the dividend on the common got to where it exceeded the dividend on the preferred, we'd exercise our warrants,” he said on Bloomberg.

Buffett also said he supports the company and its current management, including Moynihan.

Moynihan said in a statement: "In 2011, we welcomed Berkshire Hathaway as a shareholder, and we appreciate their continued support now as our largest common shareholder."

The big share purchase gives Buffett about 6.5 percent of BofA’s shares. That’s ahead of the next four – all big fund managers: BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street Bank and Fidelity.