Monthly Archives: October 2016

BYD Announces Plant in Hungary to Build Pure Electric Buses and Trucks

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BYD, the fast growing supplier of pure electric buses to cities across Europe, has announced a €20 million investment in a bus assembly plant in the northern Hungarian city of Komárom.

The plant which will eventually employ up to 300 people and be capable of assembling up to 400 vehicles a year on two shifts. Initial output will be BYD’s world beating range of emissions free electric buses and fork lift trucks but the Hungarian subsidiary’s name – BYD Electric Bus & Truck Hungary Kft – hints at other ambitions.

The Hungarian plant will begin production in the first quarter of 2017. It will have its own R&D center and battery test facility.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Budapest, Isbrand Ho, BYD Europe’s Managing Director, said: “Today’s announcement reinforces our company’s commitment to the European market. This is our first manufacturing facility but it won’t be our last – we are actively looking for other locations”.

He added: “We chose Hungary both because of its central location in Europe and its long tradition of engineering excellence and indeed bus making, as well as the very friendly welcome we have received from the authorities here”.

Mr. Peter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Hungary welcomed BYD and pointed out Komárom is the only manufacturing plant outside China besides California and Brazil. He highlighted the fact that BYD was not just building a manufacturing plant but also opening a battery testing unit and R&D center.

BYD and Berkshire Hathaway

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has paid off handsomely. Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million is now worth roughly $1.77 billion.

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Credit Ratings Upgraded for Berkshire Hathaway’s Insurance Companies

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A.M. Best has upgraded the Financial Strength Rating (FSR) to A++ (Superior) from A- (Excellent) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Ratings (Long-Term ICR) to aa+ from a- of Mount Vernon Specialty Insurance Company and Radnor Specialty Insurance Company (both domiciled in Omaha, NE), strategic affiliates of United States Liability Insurance Company (USLI) (Wayne, PA) that are branded as Devon Park Specialty.

Concurrently, A.M. Best has affirmed the FSR of A++ (Superior) and the Long-Term ICRs of “aa+” of USLI and its subsidiaries: Mount Vernon Fire Insurance Company (MVF) (Wayne, PA) and U.S. Underwriters Insurance Company (USU) (Bismarck, ND). The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) is stable.

According to A.M. Best, the ratings of the insurance operating companies reflect their superior risk-adjusted capital position, extended trends of underwriting and operating profitability, very strong market presence and conservative reserve positions. Additional favorable factors include a proactive claims management philosophy, exceptional diversification in their book of business as it regards limiting concentrations, commitment to customer service, and extensive employee training and retention programs that translate into a culture of success.

Furthermore, these ratings continue to benefit from implicit and explicit support provided to USLI and its subsidiaries by their ultimate parent, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

This support, for some of the operating companies, is in the form of significant reinsurance treaties with National Indemnity Company, a Berkshire subsidiary. In addition to this agreement, Berkshire has established an extended track record of supporting its member companies.

These positive rating factors are partially offset by the above average investment leverage recorded by the group. A.M. Best also continues to monitor the organizational structure and market changes implemented at USLI as it regards the Devon Park Specialty branded companies.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Analysts Predict 5% Annual Growth Rate for Catastrophe Insurance Market

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Looking for a robust growth industry? Try catastrophe insurance.

Analysts at Technavio are forecasting that the global catastrophe insurance market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 5% through 2020, according to their latest report.

Key companies in the catastrophe insurance market includes leaders such as Berkshire Hathaway, AIG, Allianz, and Lloyds.

In their newly released report, Technavio’s analysts highlighted the following three factors that are contributing to the growth of the global catastrophe insurance market:

• Catastrophe bond pricing and valuation strategies
• Regulatory support for public-private cooperation on building resilient infrastructure and better risk governance
• Climatic changes

Catastrophe bond pricing and valuation strategies

The insurance industry is considered a cyclical industry. Therefore, insurers are formulating different strategies to earn positive yields and generate cash flows during the forecast period. Such strategies should bring in stable earnings year-over-year for players in the insurance industry. Catastrophe bonds help the investors to earn good returns that are uncorrelated with the broader financial markets. It helps the portfolio managers in making more informed decisions in allocating the capital and by understanding the attributes of the pricing trends. The insurance company makes use of catastrophe bonds so that it can transfer insurance risk to the capital markets.

Amit Sharma, a lead research analyst at Technavio, says, “In the present market scenario, catastrophe bonds have evolved into valuable risk management and investment tools where there is incorporation of different elements from both the debt capital and reinsurance markets. Catastrophe bonds provide alternative means to capitalize reinsurance transactions.”

Regulatory support for public-private cooperation on building resilient infrastructure and better risk governance

Globally huge losses are incurred due to damages caused due to natural disasters. The role of government plays a very important role wherein it requires the government to develop a comprehensive disaster management framework. One of the popular disaster management frameworks is public-private partnership (PPP) model that has become a popular way for governments to engage private sector players in strengthening infrastructure (thereby increasing the quality and providing better value for money). PPP is considered as a strategic approach to minimize the negative impacts of disasters, particularly in the developing countries.

“Top insurance firms are expected to invest more in innovative products, distribution, and service strategies. The growing size and complexity of the economy have triggered an increase in the demand for insurance against various risks. This has deepened market penetration of insurance products and may boost demand for insurance products during the forecast period,” adds Amit.

Climatic changes

Climatic changes have occurred due to the various natural and manmade disasters. Therefore, the insurance company requires not only to focus on the historical data but also to have forward projections. Climate change has brought in extreme weather events, and therefore insurance companies need to understand the change in the frequency of the extreme weather condition. Therefore, the insurance companies, reinsurance companies, capital markets, and governments are making use of various catastrophe modeling technologies.

This helps them in understanding the risk selection process, underwriting the process, risk mitigation strategies, portfolio optimization, risk transfer mechanisms, reinsurance decision-making, portfolio pricing, reserving and rate making, capital setting and exposure and aggregate management.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkadia Facilitates $78.5 Million Sale of Southern California Multifamily Property

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Berkadia has announced the recent sale of Oak Springs Ranch, a 312-unit multifamily property in Wildomar, California. Managing Directors Ed Rosen and John Chu and Directors Kyle Pinkalla and Erin Dammen of the San Diego team completed the $78.5 million sale, which closed on September 30.

The seller was Oak Springs Ranch, LLC, comprised of developer GLJ Partners and affiliates of Dallas-based Sarofim Realty Advisors. Oak Springs Ranch drew attention from both institutional and private capital, and was ultimately purchased by San Diego-based R&V Management Corporation.

“Oak Springs Ranch presented a great investment opportunity in a thriving market that has attracted a lot of attention over the past year due to strong job growth,” Rosen said. “In fact, the Inland Empire has hit its lowest unemployment rate since before the recession.”

The property, built in 2014, offers one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans. Unit amenities include kitchens with quartz countertops and white European cabinetry, wood-style flooring, soaking tubs and walk-in showers, full-size washer and dryer units and central air and heat. Select units offer balconies and patios, gas fireplaces and garages. The community’s residents enjoy access to a fitness center, lounge, pools and spas, outdoor grilling and picnic areas and a 14-acre open space with a walking trail. Oak Springs Ranch also hosts a variety of community events throughout the year.

Located at 24055 Clinton Keith Road, Oak Springs Ranch provides quick access to major employment areas across the Inland Empire as well as Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. The expanding job market and sustained apartment demand fueled a 6 percent annual increase in rents in the third quarter of 2015, making the Riverside metro area one of the top ten in the United States for rent growth.

About Berkadia

Founded in 2009 as a 50/50 joint venture between Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National Corporation, Berkadia is a third-party commercial mortgage servicer, as well as an approved lender for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD/FHA. The company was among the top Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae multifamily lenders for 2013.

Berkadia owes its origins to GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corporation, which was acquired in 2009 by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Five Mile Capital Partners LLC, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners. Christened Capmark Financial, the company had $10 billion of originations in 2008 and a servicing portfolio of more than $360 billion before running into bankruptcy in October 2009.

In a deal approved by the bankruptcy court, Capmark sold its mortgage loan and servicing to the newly formed Berkadia in a deal worth $515 million.
The deal brought Berkshire into the heart of the commercial loan serving business, and the company has one of the largest commercial real estate servicing portfolios.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Macau Latest Expansion for Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company (BHSI) has received a license to provide insurance and reinsurance in Macau, and has filled key positions in its newly established Macau office.

“It is a very interesting time in Macau, with continued diversification of the territory’s economic profile,” said Marc Breuil, President, Asia, BHSI. “We are pleased to expand our Asian footprint and bring to Macau local knowledge and expertise along with BHSI’s unique balance sheet and financial strength.”

Beginning immediately, BHSI Macau will be providing commercial property, energy, construction, terrorism, casualty, executive and professional lines, surety, accident and health, and marine insurance.

The addition of the Macau office expands BHSI’s regional presence in Asia, which already includes the insurance hubs in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The company named Yasmin Chan as Branch Manager, and Ivory Chong as Underwriting Manager, in Macau. Yasmin comes to BHSI with 20 years of experience in the Macau insurance and reinsurance market. She holds a Bachelor in Business Administration degree from the University of Macau.

Ivory joins BHSI with more than 15 years of industry experience, including more than a decade in the Macau market. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economic Law from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

No More Sweet Mars Dividends for Buffett

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The days of MARS Bars as the candy of choice for Warren Buffett’s sweet tooth look to be over. While he’s still drinking Coca Cola, he won’t be munching on any more of Mars Inc.’s dividends.

Mars Inc. has announced it is acquiring Berkshire Hathaway’s minority stake that the company acquired in 2008 during the Great Recession. At the time, Buffett invested $2.1 billion for preferred stock and another $4.4 billion for corporate bonds to help finance Mars Inc.’s acquisition of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.

Mars repurchased the bonds in 2013 at 115.45% of their face value, but the preferred stock has continued to pay 5% annual dividends to Berkshire.

Back in 2013, The Wall Street Journal estimated that Berkshire was on track to make as much as $680 million in profit from the deal.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

BYD Launching World’s First Pure Electric Sanitation Truck Lineup

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Garbage may make you hold your nose, but that doesn’t mean the garbage truck has to.

BYD Company Ltd. and the Beijing Environmental Sanitation Engineering Group Ltd., are planning the world’s first pure electric sanitation truck lineup – a total of 26 different models – to serve the Beijing’s administration. The Beijing Environmental Sanitation Engineering Group is expected to replace 45% of its current diesel fleet for pure electric vehicles before the end of this year, and 100% of the fleet is to be switched to pure electric within 2017.

BYD’s pure electric sanitation truck lineup

With large-scale and comprehensive capabilities, the Beijing Environmental Sanitation Engineering Group is the most important sanitation company in Beijing. It is dedicated to providing a broad range of services comprising street sweeping, solid waste transportation and processing, water and air pollution management, consulting and design, vehicle manufacturing, investment and financing, and mining resources development.

The company covers the whole industry chain and is one of the most integrated companies in the environment sanitation industry in China.

The 26 models of pure electric trucks – with load capacities ranging from 1 to 32 tons – will be used as sweeping, garbage, and sprinkling trucks, carrying out multiple tasks including sweeping, collecting, compressing and transporting waste, as well as refrigerated transportation for hazardous waste. The truck lineup will cover all operational processes including collection, transportation and disposal. Amongst the trucks many advantages are low noise, zero emission, efficiency, long driving ranges, and life-time batteries.

Additionally to the BYD cutting-edge Iron-Phosphate Battery, the lineup is equipped with several other BYD core technologies. For example, the electric integrated axle assembly technology, which smartly combines the driving motor with the automatic gearbox and drive axle, largely improving transmission efficiency. At the same time, the integrated technology saves extra room for more batteries.

Another important technology is the use of the independent electric motor to control the fan, and water and fuel pumps. Additionally, an innovative design completely integrates the control systems for both the vehicle’s superstructure and chassis.

Another technology is the CAN (Controller Area Network) system, which further improves the vehicle’s reliability. The vehicle body is made of lightweight aluminum alloy which decreases the weight and extends both driving range and life span. The truck is equipped with cameras that grant a 360° view, so that the driver can monitor the whole operational process. The truck features GPS, which renders the vehicle traceable in case of emergency. Furthermore, with its Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) feature, the truck can be used as a charging unit to serve other trucks in need of charging. Moreover, the issue of “range anxiety” is tackled because the vehicles can be fully charged in 2 to 3 hours for a driving range up to 400 km or 8 hours’ heavy-duty operation.

Diesel powered trucks have emitted gargantuan amounts of hazardous waste gases in the past years. On February 24, 2016, the State Council demanded that larger fleets of electric sanitation and logistics trucks be adopted, but BYD and the Beijing Environmental Sanitation Engineering Group had already taken action – after setting up a joint venture dedicated to manufacturing pure electric sanitation trucks in August 2015.

Additionally to the unquestionable environmental benefits, the truck’s economic benefits are obvious as well: the operational cost of an 8-ton pure electric loading truck is almost half of that of its diesel counterpart.

BYD and Berkshire Hathaway

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has paid off handsomely. Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million is now worth roughly $1.77 billion.

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway’s TE Wire & Cable Licenses Ground-breaking Thermocouple Cable Technology

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Berkshire Hathaway’s TE Wire & Cable LLC, a leading thermocouple and specialty wire and cable manufacturer, today announced the completion of a licensing agreement with Cambridge Enterprise for a ground-breaking thermocouple cable technology developed by researchers in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge. This dual wall, low-drift type K and type N mineral insulated (MI) thermocouple cable design was developed to improve temperature measurement accuracy, extend thermocouple life and significantly enhance drift characteristics.

The new cable design was developed for high temperature thermocouple applications and thermocouple installations that require longer use at higher temperatures. The technology will be of particular interest to those involved in aerospace/aircraft manufacturing for measuring jet engine temperatures and for processing applications like heat treatment.

Robert Canny, President of TE Wire & Cable, notes, “Even though this is a completely new technology for us, TE Wire is well positioned to promote it to our customers and corresponding applications. Our depth of application knowledge and industry ties in heat treatment and the aerospace world will allow us to refine this technology in cooperation with forward-thinking customers.”

The processes underlying this new technology are outlined in a paper titled “Development of a Low Drift Type K Thermocouple Cable for Aerospace Applications.” The paper is co-authored by Dr. Michele Scervini, a research scientist at The University of Cambridge in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, and Trevor D. Ford, chief metrologist and technical director at CCPI Europe Limited, the company that performed independent testing in its calibration laboratory on the new low-drift mineral insulated thermocouple.

TE Wire & Cable LLC is a Marmon Wire & Cable/Berkshire Hathaway Company, and is a premier thermocouple and specialty wire and cable manufacturer that was formed from the Wire and Cable Division of the Thermo Electric Corporation.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

McLane Furthers Focus on Diversity with Expansion of SPARK Initiative

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Berkshire Hathaway’s McLane Company, Inc., a leading supply chain services company providing grocery and foodservice solutions, has announced the expansion of SPARK, a company-wide initiative focused on identifying workplace diversity opportunities through a variety of programs, community outreach and lending support to nationally recognized diversity-focused annual events.

With the expansion, McLane furthers its commitment of creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce to foster creativity and innovation in order to better understand evolving trends and drive results for customers.

As part of this expansion, McLane has collaborated with Colorado Division of Vocational Rehab (DVR), Workforce Boulder County and Easter Seals on a Workplace Diversity Hiring pilot program that provides real world work experience to individuals with disabilities.

Participants of the Workplace Diversity Hiring program are referred by DVR and Workforce Boulder County to participate in a six-week training program that combines classroom and on-the-job training. The two weeks of classroom instruction includes soft-skills training, such as teamwork and problem solving taught by Easter Seals. The remaining four weeks of the program are located at the McLane Western Distribution Center, where participants will be exposed to real-world work experience as they integrate and work alongside McLane teammates. During the experiential training a job coach accompanies participants, ensuring they receive proper training based on their individual abilities. The second training session is scheduled to kick off in early October.

Other programs currently deployed under the SPARK initiative include:

Hiring Our Heroes (HOH): Because McLane deeply values the sacrifice and driven work ethic U.S. veterans and military embody, the company embarked on a partnership with Hiring Our Heroes in 2015. Initiated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the 12-week Corporate Fellowship program strives to make the transition to civilian careers easier and more seamless for military veterans.

McLane works with other HOH partners Workforce Solutions and the Texas Veterans Commission to source active duty military personnel for onsite project work lasting 11 weeks. To date, McLane has successfully hosted four fellows and has hired three. With this partnership, McLane is able to tap into the skills, drive and value our veterans have to offer.

Operation Impact Network of Champions: To further expand its veteran reach and talent with expertise in logistics, information technology, security, maintenance and business operations, McLane became part of the Operation Impact Network of Champions. This program was started by Northrop Grumman, a Department of Defense contractor, and sets out to assist wounded service members injured during the war on terror with transition from military to civilian careers.

“McLane recognizes the value of a diverse workforce to include people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds, and with highly-trained military expertise. The launch of SPARK deeply aligns with McLane’s beliefs and values of honesty, integrity, and high Christian principles, and further demonstrates our commitment to diversity inclusion,” said Jennifer Rojas, EEO compliance, and inclusion manager at McLane. “It’s been a great experience working jointly with the many exceptional partners we’ve identified for each program, and we look forward to adding great talent to build out the McLane team and making people’s lives better.”

Looking ahead with SPARK, McLane plans to include additional disability training programs under the Workplace Diversity Hiring Program, as well as seek out opportunities that bring greater impact to the company, its teammates and the communities it serves.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Adds Managing Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa

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Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has announced that Mitchell Lewis will represent the real estate brokerage network as managing director, EMEA.

Lewis will oversee franchise development and operations in key markets throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

According to a statement by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Lewis brings vast international franchise sales and operations experience to his position, first at Cendant Corporation where he managed the global expansion and deal negotiations for Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Coldwell Banker Commercial and ERA. For the next decade at Realogy Corporation, he grew the global presence and enhanced the processes and systems for the same brokerage networks as well as Sotheby’s International Realty.

Most recently, Lewis served as the managing director of Asia Pacific for Christie’s International Real Estate, where he established the network’s operational presence and helped lead the brand’s global development. He also founded Munich-based Counterparts Advisory LLC to consult for consumer brands seeking franchise expansion and operational guidance around the world.

“Mitch Lewis is exactly the right professional to help us expand Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices,” said Peter Turtzo, SVP of International Operations. “He is an authority on international franchising having generated success at every turn. His extensive experience and professional acumen are true assets; he will indeed help us take our network global, far beyond its current presence in the United States.”

Lewis responded: “I am honored by the opportunity to assist Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in its global expansion. The Berkshire Hathaway name is respected around the world, which gives Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices an advantage. I’m eager to explore target markets and work with franchisee candidates to see how the brand can help them grow and enhance profitability of their brokerage businesses.”

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices announced international expansion plans in May with the simultaneous launch of a powerful, new property search platform on its website, www.berkshirehathawayhs.com. Global shoppers of U.S. real estate may translate the site in 10 languages, and their property searches yield all listings in any city serviced by a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices franchisee. The network also initiated a listing syndication program that broadcasts its U.S. franchisees’ listings to real estate websites worldwide.

“These resources open gateways to the world for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ U.S. affiliates long before a global franchise sales effort begins,” said Lewis. “This demonstrates careful planning and foresight by the brand to do things right the first time. In fact, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has exhibited extreme levels of due diligence, prudence and patience in its international expansion strategy.”

Lewis said his initial target markets will include major financial hubs along with destination and feeder markets throughout the EMEA region that exhibit stability in the property sector and where Berkshire Hathaway’s corporate name recognition runs high.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEO Gino Blefari welcomed Lewis in his new role.

“Mitch is a globally astute executive who knows international franchise development and operations from all angles, and further understands the diligence we need to uphold the integrity of our brand name as we affiliate with leading real estate brokerages abroad,” he said. “He’s also an accomplished consultant who helped shape our global strategy and can guide franchisees to maximize their growth potential. We’re proud and confident knowing Mitch will be helping to expand our brokerage network.”

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.