Berkshire seeks to boost its Wells Fargo stake above 10 percent

Fri Jul 1, 2016 7:34pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc BRKa.N is seeking permission from the Federal Reserve to increase its ownership stake in Wells Fargo & Co WFC.N, after reaching the 10 percent level that could prompt increased regulatory scrutiny.

According to papers obtained by Reuters on Friday, Berkshire said it learned in mid-March that its Wells Fargo stake, including 2.01 million shares held by Buffett, had reached 10.01 percent because of buybacks by the San Francisco-based bank, which decreased the number of shares outstanding.

Though the stake later dipped to 9.97 percent, Berkshire said it has again risen above 10 percent because of more buybacks by Wells, which is the third-largest U.S. bank by assets. Berkshire said it has bought no Wells Fargo shares since Oct. 21.

"Berkshire is seeking permission to retain its current ownership position in Wells Fargo and to acquire additional shares of common stock of Wells Fargo for investment purposes," according to the papers, which were dated June 14 and submitted to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The Federal Reserve exerts special oversight when investors take large bank stakes.

Berkshire said it had no dollar value in mind for purchases, had no plans to make significant changes to Wells Fargo's strategy or corporate structure, and was not contemplating changes to the bank's management or board.

Bloomberg News earlier reported the paperwork.

Berkshire's investment in Wells Fargo is worth more than $23 billion.   Continued...

A Wells Fargo branch is seen in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, February 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young