An affiliate of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said Monday that it has taken stakes in five of Japan’s biggest trading companies, which have significant oil and natural gas holdings worldwide. 

Subsidiary National Indemnity Company has acquired more than 5% of the outstanding shares of Itochu Corp., Marubeni Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co. and Sumitomo Corp. in an investment valued at more than $6 billion. The firm said stakes were acquired over the last year through regular purchases on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. 

Berkshire, which has held interests in businesses such as Coca-Cola Co. and American Express Co. for decades, said in a statement that it intends to hold the Japanese investments for the long term. Depending on price, the firm said it could increase holdings in any of the five trading houses by up to 9.9%. 

Monday’s announcement marked Berkshire’s latest foray into commodities, and in particular oil and gas. In July, an affiliate acquired Dominion Energy Inc.’s natural gas transmission and storage assets, including a 25% stake in the Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Maryland, in a transaction valued at $9.7 billion.


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Known as “sogo shosha” the Japanese trading houses date back hundreds of years and have diverse businesses ranging from foods and chemicals to energy and infrastructure. They hold significant equity stakes in companies across the world.  

Commodities are among their leading earners. Among other things, their energy businesses include active trading desks across the world, interests in oil and gas production, and stakes in LNG facilities. For example, some of the companies have holdings in unconventional U.S. oil and gas assets that help feed stakes in North American infrastructure projects. Mitsui and Mitsubishi hold interests in Sempra Energy’s Cameron LNG export terminal in Louisiana and Sumitomo Corp. has a stake in Cove Point in addition to holdings in other export facilities that are under development.