Bullish billionaire Warren Buffett goes shopping for Nestlé and Wal-Mart

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The Independent Online

As Warren Buffett looks forward to an improving world economy, he is betting on chocolate, energy and discount retailing, at least according to the latest filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission in New York detailing positions taken by his investment holding giant, Berkshire Hathaway, in public companies.

With signs growing of a recovery, every penny invested by Mr Buffett draws the attention of fund managers and individual investors who are more anxious than ever to see where he thinks safety and profit might lurk.

One such place is Nestlé. According to the filing, Mr Buffett now holds 3.4 million American depositary receipts – shares in foreign companies – in the world's biggest food producer, worth a total of $144.7m. It confirms his confidence in food-makers. Buffett owns 10 per cent of Kraft already and has long been a big Coca-Cola fan.

The filing also reveals that Berkshire is warming furiously to Wal-Mart Stores. As of 30 September, the firm had increased its stake in the legendary big-box retailer based in Arkansas by 90 per cent to 37.8 million from 19.9 million at the end of the previous quarter. That added shares worth about $878m in just three months.

Earlier this month, Mr Buffett agreed to pay $26bn for the 77.4 per cent he did not already own of the largest cargo rail-freight company in the US, Burlington Northern, the biggest single deal he has ever attempted.

At a forum in New York last week, Mr Buffett reiterated that there is nothing to be gained from standing on the sidelines in hard economic times. "A terrible market or a terrible economy is your friend," he said, after being asked whether the rising stock market was at odds with the continuing economic strains, including unemployment. "It's a terrible mistake to look at what's going on in the economy today and decide whether to buy or sell stocks."

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