Category Archives: Acquisitions

Kraft Heinz Covets Campbell

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Kraft Heinz is looking to acquire Campbell according to a report in the New York Post.

According to the Post, Kraft Heinz assumes that the soup company’s strategic review will lead to a sale, especially after its stock has tumbled 21% in the past six months, and it wants to be first in line.

In addition to its familiar soups, Campbell owns a host of top brands, including Pepperidge Farm breads, cookies and Goldfish crackers; Royal Dansk and Kjeldsens cookies; V8 beverages; Bolthouse Farms beverages, carrots and dressings; Plum Organics baby food; Swanson broths; Prego pasta sauces; Garden Fresh Gourmet fresh refrigerated salsas, dips and hummus, and Pace sauces.

Campbell has been seeking to spur its own growth through acquisition. In March, Campbell created a new snack division after its $4.87 billion cash acquisition of snack-maker Snyder-Lance. The deal was financed with $5.3 billion of bonds.

The company is projecting $10 billion in annual revenue from its snack brands, however the acquisition price was considered steep to say the least.

Ask any analyst about potential Berkshire Hathaway acquisitions and Campbell usually finds its way on the list.

Kraft Heinz was rebuffed in its megadeal for Unilever in February 2017, so smaller deals look to be the way forward for now.

With 3G Capital’s Bernardo Hees at the helm, Kraft Heinz has been in relentless cost-cutting mode since 2015, and Campbell has been in the midst of its own $500 million effort, so it’s not clear how much more savings Kraft Heinz can wring out of it.

In any case, Kraft Heinz, which is in third place worldwide among global food conglomerates, is clearly looking to move up the chart. With Berkshire’s money behind it, there’s little doubt they will.

© 2018 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.

HomeServices of America Acquires Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s HomeServices of America has acquired Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate as well as an ownership interest in Ambassador Title Services. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, Ambassador Real Estate serves the Omaha, Lincoln, Council Bluffs, Fremont, and Dundee communities with 630 sales associates operating in five sales offices. In 2017, Ambassador closed more than $2.1 billion in sales volume.

Led by its president Vince Leisey, Ambassador Real Estate has experienced year-over-year market-share growth and is widely recognized for its progressive and collaborative culture. In 2017, the company was ranked in Entrepreneur Magazine and CultureIQ’s Top Company Cultures list as the 12th best company culture in the United States in the large-company category.

Leisey is among the real estate industry’s most recognized and charismatic leaders and is known for his inspirational leadership style and approach to driving employee and agent engagement and productivity through one-on-one coaching, teamwork, and communication. Along with his existing executive team and sales managers, he will continue to lead Ambassador Real Estate’s strategic planning and growth initiatives as well as manage the company’s day-to-day operations.

“I am thrilled to join HomeServices’ family of companies. When you combine the exceptional culture that is the core of Ambassador’s productivity and success with HomeServices’ commitment to delivering exceptional service to its buyers and sellers and its unsurpassed growth opportunities, there is no limit to what we can accomplish,” said Leisey.

“Vince brings strategic vision, an innovative spirit and proven leadership qualities and, together with his team of sales managers and agents, has built an extraordinary organization,” said Ron Peltier, HomeServices’ chairman and CEO.

“Developing strategies that drive innovation and productivity across HomeServices’ family of companies is key to our mission of delivering value to our agents and consumers,” added Peltier. “We look forward to working with Vince and his team and are very proud to welcome them to HomeServices.”

The acquisition further expands HomeServices’ presence in the Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska markets, which include Omaha-based CBSHOME and Lincoln-based Woods Bros. Realty and HOME Real Estate. They will continue to operate as independently-branded companies in their respective markets.

With this transaction, HomeServices has nearly 43,000 real estate professionals operating in nearly 900 offices across 30 states. In 2017, the company’s associates facilitated over $137 billion in residential real estate sales and nearly 360,000 transactions (including the 2017 and 2018-to-date acquisitions pro-forma), further strengthening HomeServices’ position of becoming the nation’s largest real estate brokerage company based on transactions.

© 2018 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 Brokerage Superpower Created in Pittsburgh

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Northwood Realty Services has announced it will acquire Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty and join the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network in August operating as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty.

The union creates a brokerage superpower of more than 1,800 agents and 50 offices serving 22 counties in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.

The Preferred Realty and its family of companies would be the No. 1 residential real estate brokerage in greater Pittsburgh for sales volume, units and listings based on West-Penn MLS data through May. It would also be the No. 20 company across the entire industry for units based on REALTrends data; and No. 10 in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network for gross commission income.

Tom Hosack, Northwood Realty Services president and CEO, will serve as co-president and CEO of The Preferred Realty. Jim Saxon of The Preferred Realty will be co-president and COO. Northwood Realty Services’ Wendy West remains chairwoman of the brokerage’s board of directors, while Ron Croushore, CEO of The Preferred Realty, becomes the board’s vice chairman.

“This union is a wonderful fit for all parties involved,” said Hosack. “We are both family-run companies that care deeply about the success of our agents and employees. We are passionate about helping consumers with their real estate needs and aspirations. Our new brokerage is grounded in a shared philosophy and supported by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, one of the fastest-growing brands in real estate.”

Croushore said the transaction brings even more opportunities for the expanded brokerage. “We thoroughly cover Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio with top agents and a complete line of real estate services,” he explained. “Our economies of scale will help us innovate, market and grow our services. As part of my legacy I want to see The Preferred Realty grow for generations to come. We are certainly on that track.”

Saxon added that timing of the transaction is ideal. “Our markets are growing and changing, just like our competitors,” he explained. “It’s more important than ever for our agents to be supported with the most effective technology, tools, education and leadership to help them succeed. Combined, we will build on our best practices, processes and products, and compete in unprecedented ways.”

Founded in 1956, Northwood Realty Services is owned and operated by Everest Consulting Group, LP. The brokerage’s sister companies include mortgage lenders West Penn Financial Service Center and People First Financial, plus Everest Insurance, LLC, and Everest Settlement. It established a commercial real estate division in 2017.

The Preferred Realty family includes Preferred Insurance, Preferred Settlement Services, RE Educators, Preferred Property Management Company and Referral Associates of PA.

Gino Blefari, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, applauded the union. “This is a great move for both companies,” he said. “Tom Hosack, Ron Croushore and Jim Saxon have built dream team that should dominate the landscape for years to come.”

© 2018 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.

HomeServices of America Acquires Largest Private Residential Real Estate Company in Texas

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s HomeServices of America, Inc. has acquired the Ebby Halliday Companies, the largest private residential real estate company in Texas by sales volume.

The acquisition includes Ebby Halliday’s three real estate brands—Dallas-based Ebby Halliday, REALTORS® and Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate along with Fort Worth-based Williams Trew Real Estate—and their affiliated mortgage and title companies. Ebby Halliday’s portfolio of companies will continue to operate under their current brand names.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Headquartered in Dallas, Ebby Halliday Companies serves metropolitan Dallas-Fort Worth and surrounding communities with approximately 1,800 sales associates and staff operating in 35 offices across 12,000 square miles in North Texas. Ebby Halliday is the 12th largest residential real estate company in the United States by sales volume and the 17th largest by transaction sides, according to the 2017 REAL Trends 500 report. In 2017, the company closed $8.0 billion of sales volume.

Founded in 1945 as a one-woman, one-office firm by industry visionary Ebby Halliday, the firm has grown to become one of the nation’s foremost full-service real estate companies. The Ebby Halliday name is synonymous with providing clients the highest level of customer service, local expertise and resources, all delivered by a team of knowledgeable agents using the firm’s innovative technologies. Mary Frances Burleson, president and CEO and Ron Burgert, the company’s chief financial officer will continue to lead the firm’s strategic growth initiatives and manage day-to-day operations together with their sales management teams.

Also announced was the formation of the Ebby Halliday Foundation. Building on a lifetime of service by the foundation’s namesake and the simple saying she lived by, “Do something for someone every day,” the nonprofit organization will continue Ebby’s legacy of service to North Texas.

© 2018 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 Acquires WGC Crane Group

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway has acquired WGC Crane Group. The acquisition becomes a newly-created subsidiary, Marmon Crane Australia, which is under Berkshire’s Marmon Group.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Based in Wollongong, the hitherto family-owned WGC Crane Group provides mobile crane rentals, crane operators, and related services from three depots in News South Wales to clients throughout NSW and other parts of eastern Australia. The company’s fleet includes a variety of mobile cranes used for industrial maintenance, construction, and other projects.

Berkshire’s Marmon Group is an international association of more than 125 autonomous manufacturing and service businesses with collective revenues of approximately US $7bn.

Marmon’s crane business originated with Sterling Crane in western Canada in 1954, which is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, and now has branch operations in twenty-four locations throughout Canada and the U.S.A. It is now one of the largest crane fleet operators in the world.

Other members of the Marmon group include Canada-based Procrane Sales, and Astha Sterling Crane in India.

In early 2012, Marmon acquired Freo Group, a leading provider of crane hire services in Australia. This latest acquisition, WGC Crane Group, will continue to operate under the WGC name, and former managers Marc Sergi and Rob McInnes will continue to lead the company with oversight by management of Freo Group.

“We are excited to welcome WGC and its employees to Marmon’s global portfolio of crane businesses,” said Marmon Crane Services president John Roberts. “WGC is a strong, successful company and we look forward to its continued growth.”

Freo Group CEO Tony Canci added: “With Freo’s strong presence in western Australia and now WGC in the east, our organization is well positioned to provide comprehensive, flexible, safe, and dependable lift services to clients in key growth areas throughout Australia.”

© 2018 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 Acquires Sonnax Industries

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway has made another “bolt-on” acquisition and taken over Sonnax Industries, Inc., via a sale of the company’s assets, to form a new subsidiary of Berkshire’s Marmon Holdings.

The new company will operate as Sonnax Transmission Company.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Sonnax is an industry leader in the cutting edge design, manufacture and distribution of the highest quality products to the automotive aftermarket, commercial vehicle industries, and industrial sectors utilizing drivetrain technology.

As an employee-owned company, the sale was overwhelmingly approved by vote of Sonnax employees. Steve Boyer becomes President of Sonnax Transmission, and will work closely with Sonnax Industries CEO Tommy Harmon to ensure a smooth transition into Marmon.

“Joining Marmon affords Sonnax employees the support and stability of a very successful global organization while maintaining its homegrown, entrepreneurial feel,” Harmon said. “Above all, this expands what we can deliver to our customers, so our future is bright.”

Sonnax Transmission joins Marmon’s Automotive Aftermarket group, whose businesses are well known for providing innovative, engineered solutions for aftermarket installers.

Berkshire’s Marmon Holdings comprises about 175 independent manufacturing and service businesses with facilities in 23 countries and total revenues exceeding $7.7 billion in 2017.

Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue to Power Berkshire’s Growth

© 2018 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 eSupply Builds $45 Million Fullfilment Center

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire eSupply will build a new $45 million fullfilment center and office facility in Novi, Michigan.

The construction comes at one of Berkshire Hathaway’s newest companies.

In the summer of 2017, Berkshire Hathaway acquired Warren, Michigan-based MRO distributor Production Tool Supply, and created a new wholesale division, Berkshire eSupply.

At the time, the company was ranked 34th on Industrial Distribution’s 2017 Big 50 List.

With more than 1,000 suppliers, the company has more than 1 million industrial/MROP products available online, dispersed from three strategically located distribution centers in Detroit, Los Angeles and Houston.

The 57 acres of currently vacant property will be converted into a 193,230-square-foot warehouse with mezzanines and an 18,380-square-foot office building, along with 359 parking spaces.

The two-level fulfillment center will have 17,000 square feet of office space, 136,000 square feet of warehouse space, 13,650 square feet will be for a distribution center, and shipping/receiving will occupy 21,000 square feet.

The new facility will create as many as 240 new jobs.

© 2018 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.

Kraft Heinz’s Acquisition of Cerebos Gregg’s Brands Approved

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

New Zealand’s competition authority has approved Kraft Heinz’s acquisition of the food and instant coffee business of Cerebos Gregg’s.

The approval requires Kraft Heinz to divest some of Cerebos Gregg’s sauce brands.

Kraft Heinz is expanding its brands marketed in Australia and New Zealand with its purchase of the Cerebos food and instant coffee business from Japan’s Suntory Group.

The announced purchase price is A$290 million.

Kraft Heinz gains popular brands such as the Gravox gravies, which is one of the all-time great Australian brands and traces its roots back to 1917.

Bruno Lino, CEO of Kraft Heinz Australia and New Zealand, who will lead the combined business, said: “The transaction provides an exciting opportunity for Kraft Heinz to expand its portfolio into complementary categories, stretching the footprint of Cerebos’ brands into new categories and markets.”

Cerebos’ Food & Instant Coffee business includes iconic food brands in Australia and New Zealand such as Fountain, Gravox, Saxa, Foster Clark’s, Gregg’s, Bisto, Raro and Asian Home Gourmet. The business has market-leading brands across a number of categories including sauces, gravies, herbs & spices, salt, condiments, Asian sauces, desserts and cooking ingredients.

The sale agreement does not include the Cerebos Fresh Coffee business in Australia/New Zealand, which SBF will retain.

© 2018 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: Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue to Power Berkshire’s Growth

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

With the price of acquiring large businesses high, Berkshire Hathaway has been hard-pressed to spend down its $116 billion cash hoard on a major acquisition or two. Its proposed $143 billion Unilever bid, made in conjunction with 3G Capital Partners, fell on deaf ears, and other than an agreement to acquire Pilot and Flying J travel centers, the big fish have remained elusive.

However, Berkshire’s bolt-on acquisitions, which add capability and value to its existing businesses, have continued unabated, and were highlighted by Warren Buffett in his annual letter to shareholders.

In the letter, Buffett noted some of the larger acquisitions.

“Clayton Homes acquired two builders of conventional homes during 2017, a move that more than doubled our presence in a field we entered only three years ago. With these additions – Oakwood Homes in Colorado and Harris Doyle in Birmingham – I expect our 2018 site built volume will exceed $1 billion.

Clayton’s emphasis, nonetheless, remains manufactured homes, both their construction and their financing. In 2017 Clayton sold 19,168 units through its own retail operation and wholesaled another 26,706 units to independent retailers.

All told, Clayton accounted for 49% of the manufactured-home market last year. That industry-leading share – about three times what our nearest competitor did – is a far cry from the 13% Clayton achieved in 2003, the year it joined Berkshire.

Both Clayton Homes and PFJ are based in Knoxville, where the Clayton and Haslam families have long been friends. Kevin Clayton’s comments to the Haslams about the advantages of a Berkshire affiliation, and his admiring comments about the Haslam family to me, helped cement the PFJ deal.

Near the end of 2016, Shaw Industries, our floor coverings business, acquired U.S. Floors (“USF”), a rapidly growing distributor of luxury vinyl tile. USF’s managers, Piet Dossche and Philippe Erramuzpe, came out of the gate fast, delivering a 40% increase in sales in 2017, during which their operation was integrated with Shaw’s. It’s clear that we acquired both great human assets and business assets in making the USF purchase.

Vance Bell, Shaw’s CEO, originated, negotiated and completed this acquisition, which increased Shaw’s sales to $5.7 billion in 2017 and its employment to 22,000. With the purchase of USF, Shaw has substantially strengthened its position as an important and durable source of earnings for Berkshire.

I have told you several times about HomeServices, our growing real estate brokerage operation. Berkshire backed into this business in 2000 when we acquired a majority interest in MidAmerican Energy (now named Berkshire Hathaway Energy). MidAmerican’s activities were then largely in the electric utility field, and I originally paid little attention to HomeServices.

But, year-by-year, the company added brokers and, by the end of 2016, HomeServices was the second-largest brokerage operation in the country – still ranking, though, far behind the leader, Realogy. In 2017, however, HomeServices’ growth exploded. We acquired the industry’s third-largest operator, Long and Foster; number 12, Houlihan Lawrence; and Gloria Nilson.

With those purchases we added 12,300 agents, raising our total to 40,950. HomeServices is now close to leading the country in home sales, having participated (including our three acquisitions pro-forma) in $127 billion of “sides” during 2017. To explain that term, there are two “sides” to every transaction; if we represent both buyer and seller, the dollar value of the transaction is counted twice.

Despite its recent acquisitions, HomeServices is on track to do only about 3% of the country’s home-brokerage business in 2018. That leaves 97% to go. Given sensible prices, we will keep adding brokers in this most fundamental of businesses.

Finally, Precision Castparts, a company built through acquisitions, bought Wilhelm Schulz GmbH, a German maker of corrosion resistant fittings, piping systems and components.”

But Wait, There’s More!

Sometimes Berkshire’s bolt-on acquisitions get little attention. Such was the case in the summer of 2017, when Berkshire acquired Warren, Michigan-based MRO distributor Production Tool Supply, and created a new wholesale division, Berkshire eSupply.

At the time, the company was ranked 34th on Industrial Distribution’s 2017 Big 50 List.

And the Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue in 2018

QS Partners, the aircraft brokerage subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets, acquired aircraft brokers Cerretani Aviation Group of Boulder, Colorado.

Berkshire’s Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, a financier of manufactured and modular homes, acquired Silverton Mortgage. Silverton Mortgage has 22 locations and is licensed in Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

And, Berkshire’s Marmon Holdings acquired Sonnax Industries, Inc. and formed a newly-created subsidiary called Sonnax Transmission Company. Sonnax is an industry leader in the cutting edge design, manufacture and distribution of the highest quality products to the automotive aftermarket, commercial vehicle industries, and industrial sectors utilizing drivetrain technology.

So, if you think that Berkshire Hathaway is sitting still, think again.

© 2018 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.

Vanderbilt Mortgage Acquires Silverton Mortgage

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

While Warren Buffett may be unable to find a reasonably priced, multi-billion-dollar acquisition. Berkshire’s subsidiaries continue to make what Buffett refers to as “bolt-on” acquisitions.

These acquisitions add on to Berkshire’s existing businesses, expanding their reach and scope of operations.

The latest acquisition came recently when Berkshire’s Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, a financier of manufactured and modular homes, acquired Silverton Mortgage.

Silverton Mortgage has 22 locations and is licensed in Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Founded in 1998, Silverton Mortgage grew from a one-person shop to a top residential mortgage lender with 170 employees, and is one of the nation’s fastest growing financial companies.

Despite the acquisition by Vanderbilt, Silverton Mortgage will be retaining its name, leadership, employees and corporate identity following the transaction.

Expansion is also in the works. It is also anticipated that, because of this transaction, Silverton Mortgage will expand its footprint and increase its access to capital to develop an expanded line of products and services for its clients. There will be no lapses in service for borrowers currently working with the company.

“While we were not actively looking to be acquired, we are grateful for this opportunity to expand our services, both in terms of geographic footprint and loan product offerings, while keeping our identity and the great people that have built our culture of unparalleled service to our customers and communities,” said Josh Moffitt, who will stay on as the president and CEO of Silverton Mortgage. “This is a unique opportunity to keep what makes Silverton special, while also improving the service and lives of our customers and employees.”

Vanderbilt Mortgage services over 200,000 loans and also offers financing for eScore energy efficient home improvements.

Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue to Power Berkshire’s Growth

© 2018 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.