Warren Buffett has sold 16.9 million shares of PetroChina, China’s biggest listed energy company that has been the focus of shareholder activists who accuse it of providing financial support for the genocide in Darfur. The sale, made on July 12 according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange made public on Friday, netted Buffet $26.9 million.
No word from the Sage of Omaha on his reasons for the sale, but, as it only cuts his stake in the shares of PetroChina not owned by the state to 10.96% from 11.05%, taking profits rather than the moral high ground seems the most likely explanation. At Berkshire’s annual meeting in May, more than 98% of shareholders backed Buffett’s rejection of a proposal from human-rights campaigners that the company divest itself of its PetroChina stake. Even after the recent sale, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway company remains PetroChina’s second largest shareholder after PetroChina’s parent, the China National Petroleum Corp.
This Financial Times article raises the question of whether Buffett’s sale could affect international investor sentiment towards H-shares — Hong Kong-traded shares of Chinese companies — which have risen more than 50% over the past six months — though investors have had other things on their mind over the past couple of days.