AI predicts Berkshire Hathaway holdings at risk from hedge funds


AI predicts Berkshire Hathaway holdings at risk from hedge funds

More than 6% of Warren Buffett's company’s holdings could be vulnerable to short-sellers, study by UK fintech Irithmics estimates

By Tom Teodorczuk October 29, 2018 Updated: 12:31 p.m. GMT

A new study of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett's investment business, by a UK-based fintech company that analyses how artificial intelligence technology affects markets, has estimated that more than $10bn worth of the company’s holdings are potentially vulnerable to activity by short-selling hedge funds.

Irithmics, which uses deep-learning AI to study market data and which supplies clients such as the London Stock Exchange with insights into market behaviour, will publish its analysis of Berkshire Hathaway’s public holdings later this year. It will highlight the investments that are at risk on account of hedge fund positions.

According to findings seen by Financial News, Irithmics, which is based in Bath and which tracks the portfolios of more than 6,000 investment managers, estimates there is a 20% chance that losses to Berkshire Hathaway caused by bearish short-term trading will exceed 6%. This amounts to $11.5bn, based on a company filing last August that valued its total holdings at $193.2bn.

The analysis of trading positions in Berkshire Hathaway also estimates there is a 20% chance that profits associated with more bullish shorter-term trading behaviour will exceed 9%.

“Of the positions that Berkshire Hathaway has disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission, AI is able to determine the ones that are most vulnerable to the activity of hedge funds or short-term traders,” Grant Fuller, chief executive of Irithmics said. “What Irithmics’ technology is able to do, by looking at all available market data, is show Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway that $10bn of the portfolio is at risk due to the activity of hedge funds. Smart transparency shows that the positions taken by hedge funds on Berkshire Hathaway stand to potentially impact the company’s [profit and loss] statement.”

A study by WalletHub, the personal finance website, last February ranked Berkshire Hathaway as the 19th most popular stock for hedge funds to own. According to regulatory filings, hedge funds that have positions in Berkshire Hathaway include AQR Capital Management, Renaissance Technologies and Cedar Hill Associates. None of the hedge funds responded to requests for comment.

Hedge funds that have sold Berkshire Hathaway in recent years include Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater. According to a quarterly filing, it sold its stake in June 2014.

Buffett has lately been bullish on Apple, becoming the tech company’s second-biggest shareholder. According to FactSet, the research group, Berkshire Hathaway owned 239.6 million shares of Apple at the end of the March quarter. Fuller said: “AI technology has recently been predicting selling pressure driven from hedge funds in relation to Apple stock.”

Buffett has been sceptical of AI. He is also a staunch critic of hedge funds, which he views as providing poor value for money and offering relatively low returns. Last February Buffett won a decade-long $1m bet for charity that a basket of hedge funds would fail to outperform the S&P 500 index over a 10-year period.

Berkshire Hathaway did not respond to requests for comment on the study.

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