Billionaire Warren Buffett donates record $3.84bil to Gates, family charities

Billionaire Warren Buffett donates record $3.84bil to Gates, family charities

NEW YORK - Warren Buffett on Monday donated about US$2.84 billion (S$3.84 billion) of Berkshire Hathaway Inc stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and four family charities, as part of the billionaire's plan to give away nearly all of his wealth.

The 10th annual donation, Buffett's largest, comprised 20.64 million Class "B" shares of Berkshire, and increased Buffett's total contributions to the charities to more than US$21.5 billion.

The Gates Foundation, which focuses on improving education and health and reducing poverty, received about 15.76 million shares, or 76 per cent of the total donated.

Also receiving donations were the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for Buffett's late first wife, and the Howard G. Buffett, Sherwood and NoVo Foundations, respectively overseen by his children Howard, Susan and Peter.

Buffett, 84, still owns 18.8 per cent of Berkshire's stock. Forbes magazine on Monday estimated that would give him a net worth exceeding US$64 billion, ranking fourth worldwide.

Bill Gates, the Microsoft Corp co-founder, ranked first, at US$78.7 billion, Forbes said after US markets closed. Gates is also a Berkshire director, and a close friend and bridge partner of Buffett's.

Most of Buffett's holdings are in Class "A" stock, which gives him 32.9 per cent of Berkshire's voting power.

Buffett typically makes his donations in July, reducing the number of shares by 5 per cent from the prior year. ( Dollar amounts often rise because of increases in Berkshire's stock price.

The charities typically sell donated shares to finance their activities, reflecting Buffett's desire that the money be spent. Buffett also makes smaller donations to other charities.

Buffett has run Berkshire since 1965. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company has more than 80 businesses in such areas as insurance, railroads, energy and chemicals, and as of March 31 had more than US$143 billion of stock and bond investments.

Berkshire also owns more than 325.4 million shares, or nearly 27 per cent, of food and beverage company Kraft Heinz Co, which began trading on Monday. That stake is worth nearly US$24 billion.

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