Monthly Archives: February 2019

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty Hit $1.05 billion in sales volume in 2018

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Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty, one of the state’s market share leaders for real estate transactions and sales volume, set a company production record by generating $1.05 billion in sales volume in 2018 on nearly 5,200 transactions.

The brokerage crossed the billion-dollar threshold for the first time and its CEO anticipates another strong year across the board for real estate in Indiana.

“2018 was a banner year for our team,” said Craig West, Indiana Realty CEO. “The market grew in response to favorable market conditions and our team stepped up to serve a significant amount of the business in Central and Southern Indiana. We’re proud of the work and prouder to have nearly 5,200 satisfied homebuyers and sellers.”

Indiana Realty’s sale volume rose 7% over 2017 totals. The brokerage’s average sales price at $202,748 rose 9.4% over the previous year and was 8.3% ahead of the state’s average sales price in 2018. “Our sales professionals work hard for their clients and achieve top dollar for their listings,” West said.

Indiana will likely see another strong year for real estate sales, West explained. The state’s economy will grow at about a 3% clip this year, according to the Kelley School of Business at University of Indiana, and job growth will be strong. “Jobs in the Indy Metro area grew 21% in 2018 and based on the percolating economy, I don’t see that slowing down. These are the fundamentals of another solid year for real estate.”

West said Indiana home sales were hampered in 2018 by a general lack of re-sale inventory in the state. “Demand outstripping supply,” he said. Yet with new-home sales driving the local market, particularly around the Indy Metro region, West believes more re-sale homes will come to market in 2019, easing the inventory challenges.

“Most people buying new homes have a home to sell,” West said. “With more homes coming to market this year there will be less upward pressure on home prices across the state, so I predict a leveling off of home prices in 2019. Greater balance in the market is good for everyone.”

Mortgage rates, which backed off recent highs established in the second half of 2018, should remain below 5% for a 30-year conforming mortgage, West added. “This should help many homebuyers.”

© 2019 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 Completes Sale and Financing for Multifamily Property in Fort Worth, Texas

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Berkadia, Berkshire Hathaway’s joint venture with Jefferies Financial Group, has announced the sale and financing of a 399-unit garden-style multifamily property in Fort Worth, Texas.

Managing Directors Jay Gunn and Tom Burns, along with Senior Directors Taylor Hill, Michael Ware and William Jarnagin, all of Berkadia’s Dallas office completed, the sale on behalf of the seller Atlanta-based Cortland. The buyer was Houston-based Hilltop Residential.

The deal closed on February 5.

“This was a unique community with value-add potential, and as such, we experienced higher-than-normal levels of interest and tour activity,” said Gunn. “We continue to see strong investor demand flow to the Fort Worth side of the metroplex.”

Director Nicholas Murphy of Berkadia’s Houston office secured acquisition financing through Wells Fargo for Hilltop Residential. The three-year interest-only loan features a floating rate and a 65 percent loan-to-value ratio.
“Berkadia identified a capital partner who shared the same vision as the borrower and had a lending program that aligned with the borrower’s business plan,” said Murphy. “The lender agreed to finance 100 percent of the capital improvement plan and close in a short time frame, creating a perfect financing vehicle to facilitate the transaction.”

About Berkadia

Founded in 2009 as a 50/50 joint venture between Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia National Corporation (now known as Jefferies Financial Group), Berkadia is a third-party commercial mortgage servicer, as well as an approved lender for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD/FHA.

The company is among the top Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae multifamily lenders.

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.

© 2019 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.

Clayton Homes Launches Major TV Campaign

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According to a study by Home.com, seven out of ten non-home-owning Millenials think they will never be able to afford buying a home.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Clayton, one of the largest home builders in the nation, is clearly out to counter that notion. The home builder has launched a new television advertising campaign which takes aim at showcasing the modern prefab home and educating the public about the benefits of off-site construction.

With the average price of a new site-built home with land in 2018 nearing $400,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, prefab homes offer an attainable solution starting under $200,000 in most markets plus cost of land.

Called “Prefabulous”, the campaign is part of Clayton’s mission to elevate the manufactured housing industry and challenge the outdated myths that create misconceptions around this innovative, efficient construction method.

The commercial takes the viewer inside the set of a home building facility and follows a family through a beautiful Clayton Built® home as it’s being constructed, highlighting high-end features and modern design.

“Homes built off-site offer higher quality, more value and a smart solution to the affordable housing crisis in America,” said Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton. “This campaign was created to help more families realize they can attain a beautiful, quality home without sacrificing modern amenities. Off-site construction can make the dream of homeownership a reality by leveraging innovative building practices, automation and bulk purchasing power.”

Every Clayton Built® home is built inside an ISO 14001 certified facility, away from the damage and delays that can be caused by rain and seasonal weather. Construction cost savings are achieved by purchasing building material and name-brand appliances in bulk and utilizing economies of scale.

Off-site building efficiencies, production line like assembly and material recycling also aid in reducing the waste and cost of construction.

Off-site construction is uniquely positioned to provide access to quality housing at a variety of income levels. Available prefab home features:
• Permanent foundation with porch
• Open floor plan concept
• Upgraded all-wood cabinets and farmhouse sink
• ecobee3 lite smart thermostat and energy efficient appliances
• Wide plank flooring and drywall interior

“Clayton is uniquely positioned to bridge the affordability gap using both on-site and off-site home construction methods,” said Clayton. “Our goal as a company and industry is to democratize luxury and provide attainable homeownership for all families.”

© 2019 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.

Commentary: Here’s One Big Thing to Like in Buffett’s Annual Letter

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Warren Buffett may be frustrated that he can’t find any “elephants” to acquire, but he did give hope to Berkshire investors that there is one elephant-sized company that he would love to own more of, Berkshire Hathaway.

In his just released Annual Letter to Shareholders, Buffett stated “it is likely that – over time – Berkshire will be a significant repurchaser of its shares…”

While Buffett made no mention of paying a dividend, which is something he has been negative on in the past, he is clearly willing to put more of Berkshire’s $112 billion in cash into stock buybacks if the price is right.

It’s a process that’s already begun.

In the 3rd quarter of 2018, Berkshire bought back $928 million of its stock, which brought the 2018 total to more than $1.3 billion.

Now, with no big acquisition moves on the horizon, Buffett seems to be warming even more to the idea.

Remember, he stated that in future buybacks Berkshire would be a “significant repurchaser.”

Does this indicate that future buybacks could be substantially larger than what we saw last year?

It all comes down to price, and whether in Buffett’s opinion Berkshire is trading below its intrinsic value.

“If the market prices a departing partner’s interest at, say, 90¢ on the dollar, continuing shareholders reap an increase in per-share intrinsic value with every repurchase by the company,” Buffett explained.

“Assuming that we buy at a discount to Berkshire’s intrinsic value – which certainly will be our intention – repurchases will benefit both those shareholders leaving the company and those who stay,” Buffett said.

Ever cautious, Buffett is only interested in buybacks if they create value for shareholders, noting that “Blindly buying an overpriced stock is value destructive, a fact lost on many promotional or ever-optimistic CEOs.”

In his letter, Buffett also highlighted how over the years stock repurchases of some of the minority stakes Berkshire holds have given it an increasing share of those companies without spending a dime.

He pointed out that “Berkshire’s holdings of American Express have remained unchanged over the past eight years. Meanwhile, our ownership increased from 12.6% to 17.9% because of repurchases made by the company. Last year, Berkshire’s portion of the $6.9 billion earned by American Express was $1.2 billion, about 96% of the $1.3 billion we paid for our stake in the company. When earnings increase and shares outstanding decrease, owners – over time – usually do well.”

And over time, as Berkshire increases its own buybacks, hopefully shareholders will do well too.

© 2019 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.

BNSF Announces $80 Million Capital Program in New Mexico for 2019

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BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) has announced that its 2019 capital expenditure program in New Mexico will be approximately $80 million. In addition to maintenance projects, the program includes additional quadruple main tracks to enhance capacity along the Southern Transcon route.

Maintenance projects to ensure BNSF continues to operate a safe and reliable rail network account for a majority of this year’s plan in New Mexico. Those projects consist of replacing and upgrading the main components for the tracks on which BNSF trains operate including rail, rail ties and ballast.

Nearly 4.5 million carloads of freight move along BNSF lines in New Mexico annually. The 2019 maintenance program in New Mexico includes more than 850 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work as well as the replacement of approximately 20 miles of rail and more than 200,000 ties. BNSF has invested approximately $555 million to expand and maintain its network in the state over the past five years.

On the Clovis Subdivision in Belen, BNSF will begin a project to extend its quadruple main tracks to enhance capacity along the Southern Transcon route.

“The Southern Transcon is the primary route for BNSF’s intermodal franchise. Building upon our investments totaling more than $1 billion in 2018 on the route, the extension of the quadruple track in Belen highlights our commitment to provide a safe, efficient and reliable network to our customers,” said Keary Walls, general manager of operations, Southwest Division.

The 2019 planned capital investments in the state are part of BNSF’s $3.57 billion network-wide capital expenditure program announced earlier this month. These investments include roughly $2.47 billion to replace and maintain core network and related assets, approximately $760 million on expansion and efficiency projects and about $340 million for freight cars and other equipment acquisitions.

© 2019 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.

Lubrizol LifeSciences Announces New Medical Device Applications Lab

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Lubrizol Corporation has announced that its LifeSciences business will feature a new medical device applications lab.

LifeSciences has invested significantly to expand its global development and manufacturing facilities, and the latest investment is a new state-of-the-art medical device applications lab in Brecksville, Ohio.

The lab features applications testing, small-scale compounding as well as injection molding for long-term implantables. The 1,800-square foot facility will also focus on accelerated R&D, from polymers to device scale up and testing in a short period of time.

“The new applications lab is another commitment to healthcare companies looking for a full-service development partner. We continue to invest in the right areas to provide valuable offerings where our customers are experiencing the most growth,” states Uwe Winzen, general manager, Lubrizol LifeSciences. “When customers partner with Lubrizol LifeSciences, they benefit from working with us at every stage in their development process.”

Offering more than 90 years of science and technology experience, Lubrizol is uniquely structured to partner with medical device manufacturers by providing proactive innovation, speed to market, and expertise for the most demanding projects. From materials to development and manufacturing, or anything in between – Lubrizol LifeSciences is equipped to support the needs of customers worldwide.

© 2019 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 Opens New Grocery Distribution Center in Ocala, Florida

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Berkshire Hathaway’s McLane Company, Inc., a leading supply chain services company providing grocery and foodservice supply chain solutions, formally announced it has opened a new grocery distribution center, McLane Ocala, in the Ocala International Commerce Center at 910 NW 50th Avenue in Ocala, Florida.

The 400,000 square foot facility will house 165,000 square feet of dry grocery, nearly 200,000 square feet of perishables and 35,000 square feet of office and support space. The first shipment arrived on February 4, 2019 and deliveries will begin on March 17, 2019.

The new distribution center will create over 400 new jobs in Marion County. By the end of the year, McLane Ocala plans to onboard 316 warehouse and support teammates and 120 drivers and transportation support teammates. Driver hiring began in October of 2018 in effort to allow drivers to become acclimated with McLane’s customers and the delivery process in general. The recruiting team held a three-day job fair in January at the facility and nearly 600 candidates were interviewed, resulting in 233 job offers.

This location will be McLane’s sixth distribution center in Florida, joining the grocery center in Kissimmee and four foodservice centers in Lakeland, Haines City and two in Orlando and will service the quickly-expanding customer base in the North Florida region. Construction Management Technology (CMT), the general contractor for the project, oversaw the renovations and development. The Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP), The County Commission and Ocala City Council were instrumental to the venture as well.

“We are thankful for McLane Company’s presence here in our community,” said Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn. “We are excited about their growth, their services and their community involvement.”

Michelle Chesnutt and Jerry Winterhalter are leading the operation with a combined 70 years of experience at McLane. Both teammates have held numerous positions within the company. Chesnutt recently transitioned from division president at McLane Dothan in Cottonwood, Alabama, while Winterhalter was vice president of distribution at McLane Sunwest in Goodyear, Arizona.

“We are thrilled to open our new facility in Ocala where the business community is welcoming and open to growth,” said Michelle Chesnutt, division president of McLane Ocala. “The values and work ethic of the prospective workforce is an ideal fit with McLane’s culture. McLane Ocala continues our company’s core initiative to drive customer results.”

© 2019 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.

Commentary: Berkshire Hathaway Takes the Easy Money in IBM-Red Hat Merger

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In life there’s hard money and there’s easy money. There are times when you work day and night and have little to show for it, and there are times when the money falls like leaves from a tree.

One thing about Berkshire Hathaway, they’re never afraid to make money the easy way.

And what could be easier than with a click of a mouse buying up shares that somebody’s already committed to paying more for?!

With IBM set to buy Red Hat Software for $34 billion, Berkshire Hathaway has been busy buying up shares for what looks to be a profitable merger arbitrage play.

IBM’s move is the third-biggest U.S. technology merger history, trailing only Dell’s acquisition of EMC, and the JDS Uniphase acquisition of SDL, and Berkshire has jumped in and scarfed up 4,175,792 shares of Red Hat at an average price of $175.64 per share, it just revealed in its latest 13F filing for Q4 2018.

The shares represent 2.3730% of the software and cloud computing company, and if the deal goes through, Berkshire will make a profit of 7.55% for just buying and holding until the closing date.

The deal is expected to close in late 2019.

Berkshire does not disclose who makes a particular stock purchase or sale, so it’s not known whether the move is the handiwork of Warren Buffett, or his portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler.

Combs and Weschler each handle separate portfolios of roughly $10 billion each, which combined is just over 10% of Berkshire’s diverse $183 billion portfolio of shares in companies such as Apple, Coca Cola, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, American Express, JP Morgan Chase, Delta, Goldman Sachs, and Southwest Airlines, among others.

IBM hopes its acquisition of Red Hat will provide an open approach to cloud computing, and make IBM the #1 hybrid cloud provider in an emerging $1 trillion growth market. It plans for Red Hat to operate as a distinct unit within IBM’s Hybrid Cloud team.

We Don’t Care. We Don’t Have To

However Red Hat operates, it won’t matter to Berkshire.

Berkshire previously dumped all its IBM shares when it lost hope in IBM’s growth plans after company racked up almost six years of declining sales.

Unlike IBM, Red Hat has seen dramatic revenue growth. Its revenue shot up 21% between the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years.

However, IBM’s offer to pay $190 a share for Red Hat has Berkshire excited if not for IBM, than at least for the billions it will pay for Red Hat.

IBM is swinging for the fences with its largest acquisition in its history. And Berkshire is more than happy to hit a nice clean single of its own.

© 2019 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.

Forest River Leads RV Pack in Recreational Vehicle Global Growth

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Berkshire Hathaway’s recreational vehicle maker Forest River is riding a wave of strong global growth for the RV market.

The global recreational vehicles market, which was worth $54.63 billion in 2017 is projected to grow at a CAGR of about 4.11% from 2017 to 2025 to $75.38 Billion by 2025.

According to the report, “Recreational Vehicles (RVs) Market Size and Forecast By Product (Towable and Motorhomes), By Application (Commercial and Residential) And Trend Analysis, 2015 – 2025”, in 2016, 40 million Americans participated in camping activities, which is a primary booster for the growth of global recreational vehicle industry.

Berkshire’s Forest River Inc., is the largest player with a more than 25% share, followed by Thor Industries Inc., Winnebago Industries Inc., and REV Recreation Group.

According to the report, the U.S. market has roughly 10 million of the consumers aged between 35 years to 75 years that own recreational vehicles.

The China market is seeing increasing development of tourism and campgrounds coupled with consumers’ changing travel preferences is spurring the traction of recreational vehicles market. However, according to the report the domestic recreational vehicle market in China is still in the nascent stage, wherein consumers purchased about 25,000 vehicles in 2016. The purchase number is expected is to reach 500,000 by 2020 supported by growing economy and rising middle class.

© 2019 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.

Johns Manville Announces New Water-Repellent Pipe Insulation

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Johns Manville, a leading global manufacturer of energy-efficient building products and engineered specialty materials and a Berkshire Hathaway company, announced today that it will release water-repellent, mandrel-wound, mineral wool industrial pipe insulation, MinWool-1200® Pipe, in February of 2019.

According to Jeff Semkowski, Industrial Portfolio Manager for Johns Manville, JM created this new product in response to growing demand for water-repellent materials in the industrial insulation market.

“The market is showing a decided preference for water resistance in insulation materials that are being specified, as an added defense mechanism to combat corrosion under insulation (CUI),” said Semkowski. He explained that the voice of the customer and the engineering community are crucial in helping JM ensure that they are delivering innovative, effective insulation materials for their customers.

“After releasing Thermo-1200™, the first water-resistant calcium silicate on the market, our customers indicated that they wanted a water-repellent mineral wool, so we responded to their needs with MinWool-1200 Pipe.”

MinWool-1200 Pipe insulation was designed to help mitigate the risk of water intrusion. It was tested in accordance with BS EN 13472, absorbing less than 1 kg/m2 of water during the absorption tests. BS EN 13472 is a British Standard test method that measures weight gain by partial immersion in water and in recent years, it has become increasingly more common in material specifications.

Jack Bittner, Senior Industrial Product Manager for Johns Manville, explained that MinWool-1200 Pipe insulation will continue to offer the same thermal performance and lightweight benefits as it always has, but now it will be water-repellent.

“MinWool-1200 Pipe insulation remains unchanged in its performance characteristics. It can still be used in applications with operating temperatures up to 1200°F, and it is still lightweight; the only difference is that MinWool-1200 Pipe now inhibits water intrusion,” he said.

MinWool-1200 Pipe will be available from Johns Manville’s Phenix City, AL facility beginning in February 2019.

© 2019 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.