By Ben Berkowitz
(Reuters) - Berkshire Hathaway added new positions in automaker General Motors and media conglomerate Viacom in the first quarter and cut its stake in chipmaker Intel by 33 percent, the conglomerate said in a quarterly holdings statement on Tuesday.
Berkshire also boosted its position in Wal-Mart Stores by 20 percent in the first quarter, just before news broke of a bribery scandal involving the company's Mexican unit. The ice-cream-to-insurance conglomerate is the retailer's fifth-largest shareholder.
At Berkshire's annual shareholder meeting earlier this month, Warren Buffett defended Wal-Mart, saying the scandal did not change his opinion of the company.
But the GM and Viacom stakes were both relatively smaller - $256.5 million and $75.5 million, respectively - which suggest they were the work of the company's new investment managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, rather than Buffett himself.
Berkshire has a limited history with automakers, though the company does have a substantial investment in the Chinese electric car maker BYD Co Ltd.
The Intel position is one Combs added in the third quarter of last year and expanded in the fourth quarter, making the quick reduction somewhat unexpected. Tech is another category Berkshire never favored, notwithstanding the recent huge bet in IBM.
Tuesday's filing was the first peek into the investment strategy of Weschler, who joined Berkshire earlier this year to be the company's second money manager, along with Combs, who was hired in 2010.
Weschler's influence was already evident in the fourth quarter, though, when Berkshire added two of his favorite names, kidney dialysis provider DaVita and media holding company Liberty Media. They were the third- and fourth-largest holdings in Weschler's now-closed fund.
In the most recent quarter, Berkshire more than doubled its position in DaVita and nearly doubled its stake in Liberty.
Combs and Weschler run $2.75 billion each now but will jointly manage Berkshire's entire portfolio when Warren Buffett retires. In order to make them work more closely together, Buffett has said each man gets paid in some part based on how the other's portfolio does.
Among other notable moves, Berkshire raised its stake in bank Wells Fargo by 3 percent and more than doubled its position in BNY Mellon.
Berkshire also closed out of a position in Comdisco Holding and trimmed its position in Procter & Gamble by 5 percent.
(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz in Boston; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)