9 Stocks That Made Warren Buffett Billions Over the Past Year

By Matthew Frankel Markets Fool.com

Warren Buffett is known as one of the best stock pickers of all time, and many of the stocks in Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B) portfolio have performed extremely well for the company. In fact, over the past year alone, nine of Berkshire's stocks have generated nearly $20 billion in returns.

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Berkshire's most successful stocks of the past year

As of this writing, Berkshire Hathaway owns nearly four dozen stocks, but there's a massive variety when it comes to the size of these investments, ranging from just a few million dollars to more than $30 billion for Kraft Heinz, Berkshire's largest stock investment.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Because of this, some of Berkshire's stocks have the potential to contribute more to Berkshire's bottom line than others. With that in mind, here are the stocks that generated the most gains for Berkshire over the past year.

Company

Shares

One-Year Performance

Stock Price Gain

Dividends Received

Total Return

Bank of America

700 million

59.1%

$6.08 billion

N/A

$6.08 billion

Kraft Heinz

325.6 million

9.9%

$2.73 billion

$781.4 million

$3.51 billion

Wells Fargo

479.7 million

7.9%

$1.87 billion

$729.1 million

$2.60 billion

American Express

151.6 million

18.9%

$1.86 billion

$189.5 million

$2.05 billion

Charter Communications

9.44 million

44.1%

$950.6 million

N/A

$950.6 million

U.S. Bancorp

85.1 million

22.5%

$809.5 million

$93.6 million

$903.1 million

Coca-Cola

400 million

1.5%

$264.4 million

$568 million

$832.4 million

Goldman Sachs

10.96 million

42%

$725.6 million

$28.5 million

$754.1 million

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Data source: Berkshire Hathaway SEC filings. Performance is as of 5/24/17.

To be clear, all the gains listed in the "stock price gain" column are just on paper at this point. Berkshire doesn't actually get the cash until it sells.

It's also worth mentioning that these aren't necessarily Berkshire's best performing stocks -- in fact, with a gain of just 1.5% over the past year, Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) underperformed the S&P 500 by a significant margin. However, the stock is a dividend machine, and Berkshire owns a lot of shares, so it still had one of the best returns in the portfolio.

An abundance of bank stocks produced billions in profit

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that more than half of the chart is made up of financial-sector companies, as the sector was the best performer after November's election. Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) is a relatively small investment in Berkshire's portfolio, but a massive 42% gain catapulted it into being one of the best performers.

It's also important to note that Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), the stock that added the most value to Berkshire's portfolio, isn't actually owned by Berkshire -- not yet, anyway. Instead, Berkshire owns warrants, which give it the right to buy 700 million shares of Bank of America for $5 billion, or about $7.14 each. Buffett has said that he fully intends to exercise the warrants at some point before they expire, but for the time being, the intrinsic value of the warrant rises along with Bank of America's stock price.

One stock is missing from the chart

You may have noticed that there are only eight stocks in the chart, not nine as the headline would suggest. I've deliberately left out Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), as it's a relatively new investment for Berkshire, and it hasn't owned the bulk of its Apple position for a year just yet. Berkshire's Apple stake was initiated in the first quarter of 2016, and was relatively small at that time, at 10 million shares.

Since then, Buffett has increased Berkshire's stake to 133 million shares, and the position is definitely profitable by more than a billion dollars, so it's worth mentioning here. And for the record, the stocks in the chart collectively returned about $17.7 billion, so the $20 billion figure in the introduction came from combining these returns with Apple's gains.

Even so, since we don't know exactly when all the Apple shares were purchased, or for how much, it's impossible to analyze how much Berkshire has made from it over the past 12 months.

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Matthew Frankel owns shares of American Express, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and Goldman Sachs. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.