Bill Ackman piled in. David Rolfe exited.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s rotation of investors over the past few months points to the question lingering over the conglomerate as it heads for its worst annual underperformance since 2009: Is it worth waiting for Warren Buffett to make a dent in his record $122 billion cash pile?

Ackman’s stake in Berkshire, disclosed in August, is a bullish bet. His idea is simple: Growth at Berkshire’s underlying businesses and the company’s competitive position will boost earnings even if the funds aren’t deployed. Rolfe, whose firm had been a Berkshire investor for decades, grew tired of waiting.

“He has missed this glorious bull market,” said Rolfe, chief investment officer of Wedgewood Partners Inc. His company, which oversees $2.2 billion, trimmed its Berkshire stake in the second quarter and exited completely in the third. “The bullish thesis that this massive amount of cash is going to come to bear incredible fruit -- hasn’t.”

Berkshire’s third-quarter results, set to be released Saturday, should give investors a sense of how Buffett is handling the “Niagara” of cash generation in a period with no major acquisitions to ramp up growth. Berkshire stock climbed 4.2% through the end of October, short of the 21% price gain in the S&P 500.

Part of that underperformance stems from disappointment that Berkshire’s mountain of cash sits idle, UBS Group AG analysts led by Brian Meredith said in an October note. Buffett has sought out major acquisitions but has failed to strike a large deal in recent years amid what he called “sky-high” valuations.

“If you look at sort of all the ingredients in that stock, it’s a stock without a catalyst,” Cathy Seifert, an analyst with CFRA Research, said in an interview.

Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer, has turned to share buybacks to deploy some cash, repurchasing $2.1 billion this year through the end of June. That’s a “modest” amount, according to UBS analysts. JPMorgan Chase & Co., which counts Berkshire among its largest investors, repurchased more than $6 billion on a net basis in the third quarter alone.

Buffett was able to put some of his cash to work earlier this year. He agreed in April to invest $10 billion for preferred stock of Occidental Petroleum Corp., which was pursuing Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Berkshire didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Some credit Buffett’s patience for his ability to secure well-priced deals that have taken his company from a struggling textile mill to a conglomerate worth more than $500 billion. As the S&P 500 keeps setting records, sitting on the M&A sidelines might be the right move because of high valuations, according to analyst Meyer Shields.

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