BUFFETT-LED GROUP HIKES JONES STAKE

Byline: Thomas Cunningham

NEW YORK — A group affiliated with noted investor Warren Buffett has increased its stake in Jones Apparel Group to 13.1 percent from 9.9 percent.
The Buffett-controlled group, which also holds an 8.3 percent stake in Liz Claiborne, bought 3.6 million Jones shares between Dec. 31 and Feb. 29, according to a Form 13G filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday. The group includes Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway Inc, the Omaha, Neb., holding company he controls.
Buffett has a reputation for making long-term investments in undervalued companies with strong brands, leading industry positions and well-respected management. When Buffett’s initial investment was disclosed in February, Jackwyn Nemerov, president of Jones, said she viewed the investment as a vote of confidence in the company.
On the New York Stock Exchange, Jones shares lost 1/4 to close at 25 1/2 Friday; Berkshire Hathway’s class A shares lost $1,000 to close at $41,300. At Jones’ close, Buffett’s 3.6 million shares would have cost $92.4 million.
Like almost every other apparel firm, Jones has seen its stock spurned by investors who are concerned that rising interest rates could eventually slow consumer spending. Earlier this year, Jones shares hit a 52-week low of 20 1/8, down from a high of 35 7/8 last May.
Berkshire Hathaway also owns substantial stakes in American Express, Coca-Cola, Gillette, and The Washington Post Co. The Buffett-led holding company also owns outright shoemakers H.H. Brown Shoe Co., Lowell Shoe and Dexter Shoe Co.

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