Category Archives: Acquisitions

Commentary: Berkshire’s Patience Rewarded in Oncor

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

With news that Berkshire Hathaway is acquiring Texas utility Oncor, Warren Buffett has once again shown that he is in the market for big acquisitions that produce solid, dependable revenue.

The all-cash consideration for reorganized EFH is $9 billion implying an equity value of approximately $11.25 billion for 100% of Oncor and is subject to closing conditions, including the receipt of required state, federal and bankruptcy court approvals. The transaction is currently expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Buffett has certainly been patient in pursuing this Texas-sized prize, and if successful, would mean he was able to acquire one of the biggest power-transmission companies in the United States.

Back in September 2014, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and several other energy companies, including NextEra Energy and Hunt Consolidated, signed confidentiality agreements for the purpose of exploring the acquisition of Oncor, which was up for auction due to the April 2014 bankruptcy of electric utility Energy Future Holdings.

Energy Future Holdings went under after being burdened with $40 billion in debt from a 2007 leveraged buyout.

Bankruptcy Drama

Over the past two years, while Oncor went through the bankruptcy process, it repeatedly looked like Berkshire was on the losing end in the pursuit of the utility. It was too bad, as it was the perfect fit for Berkshire, as it continues to build it energy company portfolio.

However, the proposed deal comes because the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) ended up rejecting NextEra Energy’s deal to buy Oncor, opening the door once again for an offer from Berkshire.

A Texas-Sized Energy Asset

Oncor is a quite a prize. The company is a regulated electric transmission and distribution service provider that serves 10 million customers across Texas. The company has the largest distribution and transmission system in Texas; with approximately 122,000 miles of lines and serving approximately 10 million Texans across the state.

Oncor is an excellent fit for Berkshire Hathaway, and we are pleased to make another long-term investment in Texas – when we invest in Texas, we invest big!” said Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. “Oncor is a great company with similar values and outstanding assets.”

Greg Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman, president and CEO, said, “This partnership combines the strengths of two companies that share a common goal of providing exceptional customer service and a commitment to invest in critical infrastructure that will make the Texas energy grid even stronger and more reliable.”

“By joining forces with Berkshire Hathaway Energy, we will gain access to additional operational and financial resources as we continue to position Oncor to support the evolving energy needs of our state,” said Bob Shapard, CEO of Oncor. “Being part of Berkshire Hathaway Energy is a great outcome for Oncor. Oncor will remain a locally managed Texas company headquartered in Dallas, committed to the communities we serve, and our customers will continue to receive the safe and reliable service they have come to expect from our dedicated team of employees.”

Effective upon closing of the transaction, Bob Shapard will assume the role of executive chairman of the Oncor Board, and Allen Nye will assume the role of CEO of Oncor. “We are excited to begin the regulatory approval process as this transaction has significant support across our key stakeholders,” Nye said. “The stakeholders are eager to obtain a great outcome for Texas.”

“We are pleased to be working with Texas and stakeholders to ensure Oncor continues to be a strong electric transmission and distribution company. Oncor is an exceptional company with great employees and an excellent management team,” said Abel.

Energy Transmission is Great ROE

Transmission lines have been high on Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s wish list of late because they are a great way to put Berkshire’s huge insurance float to work for a high return with very low risk.

The AltaLink Example

In April 2014, BHE made a $2.9 billion purchase of Canadian company AltaLink from SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. The acquisition got the company the transmission lines for Calgary, Alberta, and gives it an 8.75-percent after-tax return on equity, with consumers picking up 100-percent of the tab for any new transmission lines.

Like AltaLink, the acquisition of Oncor will be a perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and with $935 million in operating revenues and $73 million in net income in the quarter ending March 31, Oncor will put a portion of Berkshire’s over $90 billion in cash to good use.

Growing Berkshire’s Energy Business

Berkshire Hathaway Energy currently has over $70 billion in assets, including one of the largest portfolios of renewable energy in the world.

Energy sector businesses made up 9.5 percent of Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings in 2016.

Now, it looks like Buffett’s patience has been rewarded, and Oncor will help Berkshire pass the $100 billion in energy assets mark.

© 2017 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.

MiTek Industries Acquires Mezzanine International

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Berkshire Hathaway’s MiTek Industries has acquired UK-based Mezzanine International, one of Europe’s leading mezzanine flooring suppliers.

The terms of the acquisition were not announced.

With a focus on European markets, Mezzanine International is a highly regarded leader in the design, prefabrication, and installation of custom work platforms and structural mezzanine systems. In addition to serving the largest global e-commerce providers, the Company’s many customers include leading companies in distribution, processing, aerospace, manufacturing, retail, and entertainment. In order to support the Company’s tremendous growth, in early 2017, Mezzanine International opened a new location in Cologne, Germany.

Established in 1991, Mezzanine International is Europe’s leading mezzanine flooring supplier. Mezzanine International delivers bespoke performance structures, mezzanine decking, and ancillary products to clients across all industry sectors.

The acquisition of Mezzanine International follows another recent acquisition by MiTek in this same sector, Cubic Designs, Inc., a US-based leader in custom work platforms and structural mezzanine systems. Together, Mezzanine International and Cubic Designs can now offer mezzanine platform solutions to their customers on a global scale.

“I am so pleased that Mezzanine International has joined the ranks of a storied company, MiTek Industries, Inc. A vital aspect of this acquisition was the remarkable alignment of our core values with MiTek’s, which is essential to executing our long-range growth plans,” said Scott Chambers, managing director of Mezzanine International. “Given our current design and manufacturing capabilities in Europe, combined with the momentum we are sure to experience with MiTek’s global footprint, formidable brand and resources, we expect growth rates and technology developments that far outpace our competitors.”

“The acquisition of Mezzanine International furthers our strategy for global diversification. Scott and his team have built a growing business that is recognized as a leader in the markets where they compete, while building and maintaining a trust-based culture,” said Mark Thom, MiTek’s CEO. “This is an incredible addition to the MiTek family, and I’m truly excited about the future growth opportunities that we will create together.”

© 2017 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.

Warren Buffett Wishes For Five More Lubrizols

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If there is any one of Berkshire Hathaway’s companies that Warren Buffett would love to find another of it would have to be Lubrizol Corporation.

Berkshire acquired the specialty chemical manufacturer in 2011 for $9.7 billion, and it has played an important role in Berkshire’s profits.

“Lubrizol is the second largest in terms of earnings so it’s a very important asset to Berkshire,” Buffett noted during a recent visit to Lubrizol’s headquarters in Wickliffe, Ohio. “Up until the acquisition of Precision Cast Parts [it was] the largest industrial operation we have.”

Lubrizol’s growth, which since being acquired by Berkshire has included the acquisition of Particle Science, the opening of a chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) compounding plant in Dahej, India, and assuming the Indian government’s stake in Lubrizol India Pvt Ltd., and more.

“It’s a terrific business and it’s big, and only gets bigger,” Buffet said.

With Berkshire size matters, as small acquisitions don’t make much difference in the profits of a company the size that Berkshire has grown to. Over the past decade, Berkshire has added not only Lubrizol, but also BNSF Railway, Precision Castparts, battery-maker Duracell, and a hefty chunk of Kraft Heinz to its portfolio.

While individual Berkshire companies can grow through smaller acquisitions in the millions, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions, those size acquisitions don’t make sense for Berkshire if they are stand-alone entities. Berkshire has to add companies with billions in market cap in order to make a difference.

Companies of Lubrizol’s size are in the range that Buffett looks for with his famed “elephant gun.”

“It’s a huge advantage to be large too in terms of moving the needle on $400 billion of market cap.” Buffett noted, referring to Berkshire’s overall size.

Buffett’s a willing buyer, but companies such as Lubrizol are not on every corner.

“I wish we had five more and they’re hard, they are very hard to find,” Buffet said. “They take decades and decades to build.”

Buffett’s reputation as a long term owner of companies who keeps key management in place is one the things that makes becoming a Berkshire company attractive. The other is no longer having to be a slave to quarterly earnings reports. Just ask the folks at BNSF Railway how much easier it is to allocate capital now that they have been freed of that burden.

“We want Berkshire to be a wonderful collection of businesses over time, because we’re not going to sell them. It isn’t like we are going to keep culling the herd.”

If you can find Buffett another Lubrizol he’s certainly ready to thank you.

“Find me another Lubrizol, I’ll send flowers to your wife on her birthday,” Buffett adds. And he means it.

© 2017 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: Did the KCC Open the Door for Berkshire to Make a Bid for Westar Energy?

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On April 19, the Kansas Corporation Commission torpedoed the planned acquisition of Westar Energy by Great Plains Energy.

Westar is the largest electric utility in Kansas and the combined companies would have served approximately 950,000 Kansas customers.

The KCC rejected the merger as bad for consumers, and noted what they called an excessive purchase price, requiring GPE to take on significant debt. They noted that the $4.9 billion acquisition premium exceeded GPE’s $4.8 billion market capitalization by $100 million.

With the merger dead, the big question is whether it opens the door for Berkshire Hathaway Energy to make another run at Westar Energy. BHE was in the running the last time around.

Westar Energy is a Natural Fit for Berkshire

With a market cap of roughly $7 billion, Westar is in the same price range as NV Energy, which Berkshire acquired in December 2013 for $5.6 billion.

In addition to just adding to Berkshire’s energy assets, the acquisition makes sense geographically. BHE has already partnered with Westar on Prairie Wind Transmission, LLC, a 108-mile, 345-kilovolt high-capacity electrical transmission line in south-central Kansas that was completed in 2014.

If BHE proves to be interested, it may face competing bids from Ameren Corporation, as well as an investor consortium that includes Borealis Infrastructure Management Inc. and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Both Ameren and the CPPIB were interested in Westar before the Great Plains merger was signed, and they may again return to the bidding.

Like BHE, Ameren’s service area in neighboring Missouri also fits well with Westar, which provides power for approximately 687,000 customers in much of east and east-central Kansas.

Unlike Great Plains Energy, BHE’s financial strength may enable it to overcome the KCC’s concerns, and add another valuable energy asset to Berkshire’s portfolio.

© 2017 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: Could Pepsi become a Berkshire Brand?

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It‘s no secret that Warren Buffett is partial to Coca-Cola, after all he not only drinks 5 Cokes a day, but Berkshire Hathaway owns 400 million shares of Coca-Cola stock valued at roughly $16.5 billion.

“I’m one quarter Coca-Cola,” Warren Buffett has joked.

However, with Berkshire and 3G Capital having been rebuffed in their $143 billion bid for Unilever Plc, one important analyst thinks PepsiCo, Inc. might be a logical target for the expansion of Kraft Heinz.

Pablo Zuanic, the Senior Analyst covering the Food, Beverage, and Household/Personal Care sectors for Susquehanna Financial Group, thinks Pepsi might quench Berkshire and 3G’s thirst for acquisitions.

Zuanic’s bona fides as an analyst have seen him recognized by Institutional Investor as the #1 Latin American Food & Beverage analyst for two consecutive years, the #4 US Food Analyst, and the #3 US Food Analyst in their Alpha Poll of Hedge Funds.

PepsiCo, Inc., which has a market capitalization of almost $161 billion, not only has one of the most popular soft drink brands in the world, but also owns snack-maker Frito-Lay and juice company Tropicana.

Zuanic recently raised his Pepsi price target from $118 to $132 on speculation that Kraft Heinz could team with Anheuser-Busch for the bid. The stock is currently just over $112 a share.

It seems logical that a bid for PepsiCo would see the beverages added to Anheuser-Busch, and the snack foods added to Kraft Heinz.

Zuanic notes that in his opinion Pepsi shares trade at a substantial discount when compared to Coca-Cola.

“PEP shares have lost visibility and now trade at a 25% discount to KO on apples-to-apples comps.” writes Zuanic.

While a Berkshire and 3G Capital bid for Pepsi might be a possibility, don’t expect to hear Buffett say “I’m one quarter Pepsi,” anytime soon.

© 2017 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.

Marmon Engineered Components Acquires PRISM Plastics, Inc.

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A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway’s Marmon Engineered Components Company has acquired PRISM Plastics, Inc. headquartered in Chesterfield, Michigan.

PRISM Plastics is a manufacturer of high-precision injection molded plastic components with a focus on tight tolerance automotive parts used in safety critical, electronic components, fuel systems products, steering systems and drivetrain components. The company has manufacturing facilities in Chesterfield and Port Huron, Michigan, Meadville, Pennsylvania, and Harlingen, Texas.

The Harlingen, Texas facility is located near Reynosa, Mexico and supports customers with Mexico-based manufacturing.

The company manufactures more than a billion parts per year, and in 2016 PRISM doubled the size of its business through the acquisition of Tech Molded Plastics.

PRISM Plastics was acquired from investment firm Altus Capital Partners, which acquired the company in 2014.

Rod Bricker, President and CEO of PRISM Plastics, stated, “With the financial and strategic resources from Altus, we were able to accelerate growth and stay competitive in an increasingly complex and technology-driven industry. We look forward to our new partnership with Marmon and our continued success.”

© 2017 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 KITCO Fiber Optics

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Berkshire Hathaway has acquired KITCO Fiber Optics is a leading provider of fiber optic connectorization products and consulting services to the military and commercial communications industry.

Based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the company specializes in the design and fabrication of fiber optic tools, tool kits and custom cable assemblies; producing private label kits for a number of major connector manufacturers and selling our own broad line of products; field services providing on-site termination, splicing, troubleshooting and testing support, and hands-on training and certification programs.

KITCO was founded in 1997 as a division of Norfolk Wire and Electronics.

The company grew quickly, and in 2002 and 2003 was recognized by the Fantastic 50 as one of the 50 fastest-growing firms in Virginia.

The company’s longtime chairman, W. Sheppard “Shep” Miller III, stepped down upon completion of the sale.

© 2017 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.

MiTek Acquires Wrightsoft

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Berkshire Hathaway’s MiTek Industries has acquired Wrightsoft Corporation, a leading provider of software for residential and commercial energy code compliance and HVAC system design. Wrightsoft is headquartered in Lexington, Massachusetts

“I’m thrilled with the acquisition of Wrightsoft, as this expands our technology leadership into a new area of residential and commercial construction for MiTek: energy load calculation and HVAC system design,” stated Tom Manenti, Executive Chairman of MiTek. “Aligned with our current software platforms, Wrightsoft will provide MiTek a new software extension into this essential aspect of residential and commercial construction. The resources MiTek brings to bear, coupled with Wrightsoft’s deep industry relationships, unique expertise, and proprietary software, will provide unequalled capabilities and efficiencies to MiTek’s growing residential and commercial customer base.”

“We are delighted to welcome Bill Wright and his leadership team to the MiTek family, and we look forward to working with them to continue providing exemplary service to their customers and growing Wrightsoft’s business,” Manenti commented.

Bill Wright, founder and President of Wrightsoft added, “We have successfully partnered with MiTek for a number of years now, and I am excited Wrightsoft has joined the MiTek and Berkshire Hathaway family. MiTek’s values-based approach to leadership combined with its vision of providing unsurpassed, value-added technology to the global residential and commercial construction industry, make this a perfect fit for Wrightsoft and all its employees.”

© 2017 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’s HomeServices of America Acquires Houlihan Lawrence

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In a major acquisition, HomeServices of America, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, has added over a thousand sales associates in the New York Area. HomeServices has acquired Houlihan Lawrence, one of the leading real estate firms serving New York City’s northern suburbs.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Headquartered in the northern suburbs of New York City, Houlihan Lawrence serves the Westchester, Fairfield, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties of New York and Connecticut with 1,300 sales associates operating in 30 sales offices. In 2016, Houlihan Lawrence closed $6.7 billion of sales volume.

Established in 1888, Houlihan Lawrence has been known to generations of buyers and sellers for its leadership in luxury representation and local expertise delivered by a team of knowledgeable agents coupled with the firm’s renowned advanced technologies and data driven insights. Nancy Seaman will step aside as chairman while her brothers Stephen Meyers, president and CEO, and Chris Meyers, managing principal, will continue to lead the firm’s strategic growth initiatives and manage day-to-day operations together with their sales management teams. Houlihan Lawrence, like other locally-branded brokerage companies under the HomeServices umbrella, will retain its name.

“We are joining an organization known for its strength and stability,” said Stephen Meyers. “Our partnership secures the future of the firm without changing the exceptional culture that is core to our storied brand. We are thrilled with this announcement and the many benefits it brings to our clients and agents.”

“When you combine the incredible strength of our people and the remarkable history of our success with the unsurpassed financial stability of HomeServices, there is no limit to what we can accomplish,” added Chris Meyers.

“Nancy, Stephen and Chris, together with their team of sales managers and agents, have built an extraordinary organization and exemplify a level of expertise and leadership that is second-to-none in the real estate business today,” said Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO, HomeServices. “Their culture of integrity and innovation closely aligns with our corporate vision and our emphasis on customer value and results.”

With this transaction, HomeServices has nearly 29,500 real estate professionals operating in nearly 570 offices across 28 states. In 2016, the company’s associates facilitated more than $93 billion in residential real estate sales.

© 2017 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.

MiTek Acquires DIY Technologies

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s MiTek Industries, Inc., a diversified, global business supplying a wide range of engineered products; proprietary business management and design software; and automated equipment to the construction and industrial markets, has acquired DIY Technologies. Terms of the acquisition were not announced.

Headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, DIY is a market leader in web-based design software for a wide range of home improvement and renovation projects.

“I am delighted with the acquisition of DIY, which has an enviable leadership position as a provider of on-line design software to the do-it-yourself, home improvement market. This acquisition is yet another extension of our leading position in technology serving the residential construction industry,” stated Tom Manenti, Chairman and CEO of MiTek. “DIY has established long-term relationships with some of the nation’s largest and most-respected retailers and building-products manufacturers. The combination of MiTek’s software and capital resources, along with DIY’s comprehensive web-based software, will provide unparalleled technology tools that will enhance our customers’ value proposition.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Michael Heisler and his team to the MiTek family and look forward to supporting their business model while expanding their software offerings and services, as we continue to grow DIY’s business,” Manenti commented.

Michael Heisler, CEO and founder of DIY added, “This acquisition is the culmination of more than ten years of successful partnering with MiTek. I am excited that DIY and all our employees have joined the MiTek and Berkshire Hathaway family. I have seen how MiTek truly ‘lives’ its core values, and because of this and its compelling vision of providing unrivaled, highly productive technology to the global residential and commercial construction industry, I know MiTek is the ideal home for DIY.”

© 2017 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.