Buffett’s Berkshire seeks Fed leeway to boost BofA bet: Fed

FILE PHOTO: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

(Reuters) – Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc is seeking permission from the Federal Reserve to boost its stake in Bank of America Corp above the 10% level, according to an application document provided by the Fed on Tuesday.

Bloomberg first reported the application on Tuesday. Shares of BofA gained 3% after the report came out, dipping slightly to close at 2.02%.

Berkshire, which has a 9.96% stake in BofA, filed an application with the Fed this month, assuring the regulator that it will passively invest in the bank and will not try to force a change in strategy or corporate structure.

“Berkshire routinely assesses market conditions and may decide to purchase additional shares of common stock of Bank of America based on its evaluation of the investment opportunity presented by such purchases,” the application reads.

“Berkshire anticipates that any such purchases would be on the open market at prevailing market prices.”

Ownership above the 10% level attracts increased regulatory scrutiny and the Federal Reserve only allows investors to take double-digit stakes on the assurance the buyer would not try to force a controlling influence.

Berkshire’s biggest stock market commitment remains in financial services. It is already the largest shareholder in BofA as well as American Express Co and Wells Fargo (WFC.N) and has a significant stake in JPMorgan Chase & Co.

In 2017, Berkshire pulled reut.rs/2MIl8cn a similar application to boost its Wells Fargo stake after the bank was beset by a scandal over its creation of unauthorized customer accounts.

Bank of America is slated to report its third-quarter results on Wednesday.

Reporting by Manjesh Bharath in Bengaluru and Pete Schroeder; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Michelle Price and Tom Brown

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