Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway dumped a portion of its Visa and Mastercard holdings and increased exposure in Nubank, the largest fintech bank in Brazil that’s also popular among the country’s Bitcoin investors.
In a securities filing late Feb. 14, the industrial conglomerate disclosed that it had purchased $1 billion worth of Nubank Class A stock in Q4/2021. On the other hand, it sold $1.8 billion and $1.3 billion worth of Visa and Mastercard stock, respectively, signaling a shift away from credit companies to gain exposure in their fintech rivals.
Buffett, the so-called “Oracle of Omaha,” is popular for his cautious approach to investing, particularly in the market’s hottest sectors such as fintech. The veteran investor had also downplayed emerging decentralized finance solutions like Bitcoin (BTC), ridiculing it as an asset that “does not create anything.”
But Berkshire’s new stake in Nubank shows that Buffett has been softening up to fintech lately. In detail, the firm had invested $500 million in the startup in July 2021. Its returns on the said investment amounted to $150 million in December 2021 after Nubank debuted on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
So far, Buffett has not shown any intention to sell his position in Nubank.
The Buffett-Bitcoin connection
Buffett’s additional investment into Nubank shows his acknowledgment of the fintech sector’s underlying theme the digitization of financial services, as well as his willingness to associate with companies that are involved in the cryptocurrency sector.
In detail, Easynvest, a trading platform that Nubank acquired in September 2020 has been actively offering a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) since June 2021. Dubbed QBTC11, the ETF is backed by QR Asset Management and is listed on the B3 stock exchange, the second-oldest bourse in Brazil.
Thus, it appears that Nubank, which remains exposed to the emerging crypto sector via Easynvest, could use the additional revenue opportunities to benefit its top investor, Warren Buffett, despite his views that Bitcoin is a “rat poison squared.”
That is primarily because of the growth of crypto-related investment products in 2021. Notably, their numbers doubled in the year, rising from 35 to 80, as per Bloomberg Intelligence data, while the total valuations of the assets they held reached $63 billion versus $24 billion at the start of 2021.
Cash flowing into crypto funds doubled in 2021. Source: Bloomberg Intelligence
Emily Portney, chief financial officer at Bank of New York Mellon Corp. — another firm in Buffett’s investment portfolio — noted that digital assets could become a “meaningful source of revenue” for investment banking firms as Bitcoin investment vehicles become more mainstream.
Meanwhile, Leah Wald, chief executive of crypto-asset manager Valkyrie Investments, predicted an increase in the capital flows into crypto-related investment vehicles, saying they have become a “phenomenon that’s starting to take off,” before commenting:
“If you look at inflows from a volume perspective, not only has it been steady even with the price corrections that Bitcoin is notoriously famous for, but you’re seeing a lot of institutions jump in.”
Buffett’s portfolio full of crypto-loving companies
While Buffett might not invest in Bitcoin directly, he is already gaining indirect exposure as companies in his portfolio foray into the crypto sector.
For instance, in October 2021, just a month before Bitcoin reached its all-time high of $69,000, fifth-largest U.S. bank U.S. Bancorp launched a cryptocurrency custody service for its institutional investment managers, noting that they witnessed an increase in demand from their “fund services clients” over the last few years.
Similarly, in another announcement made October 2021, Bank of America launched a cryptocurrency research initiative, citing “growing institutional interest.”
Months before, BNY Mellon announced that it would hold, transfer and issue Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies for its asset-management clients.
“The Nubank investment can be tagged as Buffett’s way of supporting the fintech/crypto world without taking back his criticisms of the past,” asserted Greg Waisman, co-founder and chief operating officer of crypto wallet service Mercuryo, adding that the Berkshire boss is now backing the “digital currency ecosystem indirectly.”
“Even an indirect exposure is bound to increase the positive sentiment that may push more investors into the space.”