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Japanese trading houses rise as Warren Buffett says he plans on buying more

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Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan in 2011.

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Shares of Japanese trading houses rose in Tuesday afternoon trade after Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said he plans to increase his holdings.

In an interview with Nikkei, Buffett said he is considering additional investment in five major Japanese trading houses, adding that he was “very proud” of his existing investments in them.

Shares of Mitsubishi Corp. rose 2.7% in Japan’s afternoon trade, Mitsui & Co. gained 2.6%, Itochu Corp climbed 2.5% and Marubeni Corp. advanced 3.7%. Sumitomo Corp. also rose 2.7%.

Buffett told Nikkei that he is planning to meet with the companies later in the week “to really just have a discussion around their businesses and emphasize our support,” according to the report.

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Japan’s five largest trading companies — known as sogo shosha — are conglomerates that import everything from energy and metals to food and textiles into resource-scarce Japan. They also provide services to manufacturers. The trading houses have helped grow the Japanese economy and contributed to the globalization of its business.

Buffett told Nikkei that he currently holds a 7.4% stake in Itochu — roughly a 0.6 percentage point increase from the 6.8% holding disclosed in November regulatory filings.

Late last year, Berkshire Hathaway increased its positions in the five leading trading houses in Japan by at least 1 percentage point to more than 6% each — after its initial purchase in August, when Buffett acquired stakes worth more than $6 billion in total on his 90th birthday.

November filings showed Berkshire Hathaway’s positions stood at 6.6% in Mitsubishi Corp., 6.6% in Mitsui & Co., 6.2% in Itochu Corp., 6.8%  Marubeni Corp. and 6.6% in Sumitomo Corp.

Nikkei separately reported that Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is preparing another issuance of yen-denominated bonds, which was seen as a signal the conglomerate would increase its investments in Japan.

— CNBC’s Becky Quick contributed to this report

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