Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway lost up to $58.5 million after the United debacle

Berkshire Hathaway, the largest owner of United Continental Holdings shares, lost up to $US58.5 million as the stock fell on Tuesday.

That’s a lot of money for most of us, but not for Warren Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman, who is worth $US75 billion according to Bloomberg.

Berkshire owns 28.9 million United shares, or about 9% of all outstanding shares, according to Bloomberg. As of Monday’s close, that stake was worth $US2.07 billion.

United’s shares fell by up to 4% as a video filmed on Sunday showing a passenger being dragged off one of the airline’s flights went viral. The airline had offered $US1,000 to make room for crew members after the flight was overbooked. David Dao, 69, refused to give up his seat and was removed.

Investors shrugged the initial backlash on Monday, but caused a sell-off on Tuesday as the video spread around the world and in China, United Airline’s largest source of revenue outside the US according to FactSet.

Berkshire added to its stakes in various airlines including Southwest and Delta during the fourth quarter, according to a 13-F filing published in February.

The filings, required of large investment firms, have a time lag and so do not necessarily reflect their updated holdings. Also, it’s possible that Berkshire’s stake reflected in the data changed before or after the video went viral.

Before Berkshire loaded up on airlines, Buffett criticised them as money losers vulnerable to competition from low-cost carriers.

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