Category Archives: Acquisitions

CTB Completes Purchase of Majority Share in Denmark-Based Cabinplant

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s CTB, Inc. has finalized the purchase of a majority share in Cabinplant A/S, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of processing equipment for vegetables and fish.

Cabinplant’s poultry processing equipment complements that made by CTB’s Meyn poultry processing subsidiary.

The acquisition agreement was originally announced on September 5, 2016. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The acquisition adds tailor-made processing solutions for fish and shellfish, fruit and vegetables, and convenience foods, as well as additional poultry processing equipment to CTB’s existing line of Meyn processing equipment for poultry. Cabinplant’s high-yield processing solutions broaden the range of processing options CTB can offer customers in the food industry.

About CTB

Acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2002 for $180 million, CTB is a leading global designer and maker of systems and solutions for storing, conveying and preserving grain; producing poultry, pigs and eggs; and processing poultry, fish, vegetables and other foods.

© 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.

Richline Group Acquires Silpada Designs

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Richline Group, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has acquired select assets of Silpada Designs, including the “Silpada” brand name, its jewelry designs and all sterling silver and fashion jewelry inventory.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

From its humble beginnings as a business founded by stay-at-home moms, Silpada saw stunning success, becoming the world’s largest home party seller of sterling silver jewelry. Over the past three years significant investments were made to keep Silpada operating as the company worked to enhance and evolve its business to remain relevant in an evolving market.

As it struggled, the company shut down its online business earlier this year.

Richline Group, a manufacturer and marketer of fine jewelry brands, will continue to produce and market the Silpada brand through new channels, focusing on Silpada’s sterling silver jewelry heritage.

While the Kelly and Walsh families will no longer be a part of Silpada moving forward, they are “extremely pleased that the Silpada brand will live on as a member of the Richline family of brands.”

“We see a tremendous opportunity to bring Silpada back to its creative roots. We plan to focus exclusively on these unique and accessible sterling silver designs that have clearly resonated with so many women across the world. We look forward to honoring the Silpada legacy while finding new ways to invigorate this unique and nationally-recognized brand”, said Richline Group CEO, Dennis Ulrich.

Going forward Richline plans to refocus the Silpada name around its sterling silver offerings. For the balance of 2016, Richline will continue serving Silpada’s loyal customer base with the core products Silpada is best known for, as well as a previously unreleased line of jewelry, as it refines a new direction forward for this national leader in silver jewelry.

In addition to ongoing retail sales for the brand, Richline will continue honoring the Silpada Lifetime Guarantee that was in place prior to June 1, 2016 for all qualified purchases until September 2017.

© 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.

Marmon Acquires Pasta Equipment Maker

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s Marmon Food, Beverage & Water Technologies Company has acquired Dominioni Punto & Pasta S.r.l., a leading Italian supplier of commercial pasta equipment, by Marmon Pasta Solutions S.r.l.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Founded in 1968 by Pietro Dominioni, the family-run business designs and produces professional pasta equipment for the restaurant, hospitality, and catering markets, as well as high-volume pasta manufacturers. The business will continue to operate under the Dominioni brand name and its operations will remain based in Lurate Caccivio (Como). Fabrizio Dominioni, son of the founder, will continue to manage the business.

Fabrizio Dominioni said: “I am pleased that my family’s business is now part of Marmon and Berkshire Hathaway. Marmon is a strong, successful company and a global leader in the foodservice equipment industry. Our new home within Marmon will enhance our competitive position and our opportunities for growth now and in the future.”

The acquisition is Marmon’s second this year of an Italy-based foodservice equipment company. In June, Marmon Italia acquired Angelo Po of Carpi (Modena).

Angelo Po designs and manufactures professional kitchen equipment including horizontal and vertical cooking products and food preservation systems for caterers and restaurants in Europe, Asia, and North America. Dominioni and Angelo Po are both part of the Restaurant & Catering Technologies Sector within Marmon Food, Beverage & Water Technologies Company.

Fabrizio Valentini, President and CEO of Marmon Food, Beverage & Water Technologies Company, said: “Dominioni is an important addition to our organization. With Angelo Po, it will significantly contribute to our company’s growth, both geographically and technologically, as we continue to invest in the worldwide foodservice, restaurant, and catering market.”

Massimo Aleardi, Sector President of Marmon Restaurant & Catering Technologies, added: “We are excited for Dominioni to join our group. Dominioni has established high standards for quality, reliability, and service. Its products, which also complement Angelo Po’s portfolio, are well regarded in the foodservice industry. Its innovative equipment solutions help meet the growing demand for fresh food while also enabling more efficient production. We look forward to building on Dominioni’s excellent reputation not only throughout Europe, but also globally.”

© 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.

Boston Auto Dealership Group Keeps Getting More Attractive to Berkshire Hathaway Automotive

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When Berkshire Hathaway jumped into the auto retailing business in March 2015, with its $4.1 billion acquisition of the Van Tuyl Group, it added a whole new line of business to the mega-conglomerate.

The Van Tuyl Group was the largest privately owned auto dealership group in the U.S., and instantly made the newly christened Berkshire Hathaway Automotive Group the fourth largest dealership group in the U.S.

The Van Tuyl acquisition was just the beginning, Warren Buffett noted in his 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Chairman’s Letter, stating, “…if we can buy dealerships at sensible prices – we will build a business that before long will be multiples the size of Van Tuyl’s $9 billion of sales.”

BHA got off to a promising start, as that same month it acquired Frank Kent Honda of Fort Worth, Texas.

“This is the beginning of a journey that will have no end,” Buffett noted upon completion of the acquisition. “Cecil and Larry have given us the ideal platform with which to build an auto dealership business that will be thriving and growing 50 and 100 years from now. The fun has just started.”

Unfortunately for Berkshire, the acquisition of also Van Tuyl set off a dramatic rise in auto dealership valuations that has rippled throughout the industry, and frustrated efforts for Berkshire to add new dealership groups at what it feels are reasonable valuations.

At the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Buffett acknowledged that they “hadn’t had much luck” in acquiring more dealerships.

BHA finally made some progress in June, acquiring North Park Toyota in San Antonio, Texas. The acquisition includes a 20-year lease of North Park Toyota’s 23.7-acre property that includes an option to buy.

The Problem is Soaring Valuations

The steep rise in valuations has kept Berkshire Hathaway Automotive mostly on the sidelines even as the Kerrigan Advisors’ Blue Sky Report showed that U.S. dealership buy/sell activity soared to record highs in 2015. The Report noted “activity by new entrants outpacing public company acquisitions by over four to one.”

The Blue Sky Report showed that while the competition for auto dealerships was fierce in 2015, it did not favor the public companies, which in addition to Berkshire Automotive also includes CarMax and Penske Automotive Group.

“A number of iconic multi-dealership groups came to market in 2015 and were acquired by both established consolidators and new entrants. Faced with this stiffer competition, the publics found it more difficult to compete for larger group transactions, and represented just 7% of the buy/sell market in 2015. Meanwhile new dealership buyers, including family offices, private equity firms, and public conglomerates, acquired 29% of the franchises sold, a stunning accomplishment,” said Erin Kerrigan, Managing Director of Kerrigan Advisors. “We believe new entrants will increasingly shape dealership consolidation and meaningfully impact the future of auto retail.”

The Blue Sky Report went on to note that while the market for auto dealerships is still very active, the market may be peaking.

“In 2015, dealership valuations rose to historically high levels, new entrants made sizable acquisitions, manufacturers approved numerous multi-dealership transactions, and real estate prices returned to pre-recession levels,” continued Kerrigan. “In summary, it was a year that is hard to beat. While the 2016 buy/sell market is expected to be as active as 2015, we anticipate the proportion of sellers completing a successful sale could decline as industry growth plateaus and dealership earnings flatten.”

A Boston Plum Waiting to be Picked

Despite the rise in dealership valuations, or maybe because of them, a plum Boston dealer group looks all the more perfect with its opening of two new dealerships.

Herb Chambers Companies, a privately-held, Boston-based, dealership group with 57 total dealerships, looks to be the perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway Automotive.

The company already sells more cars than anyone in New England, and in June it opened Herb Chambers Lincoln of Norwood and Herb Chambers Volvo Cars Norwood.

Is it for Sale?

Herb Chambers Companies is owned by Herb Chambers, a former copier salesman who has spent the past thirty years building a first class dealership group that is the 12th largest privately held auto group in the nation.

Herb Chambers has already stated that he would sell if the price is right. He also credits Warren Buffett’s Van Tuyl Group acquisition for boosting his personal net worth to some $1.5 billion, as valuations jumped throughout the whole sector.

Chambers Knows When to Sell

Herb Chambers is certainly not afraid to sell when the time is right. Three decades ago he founded A-Copy America, and after merging it with Ikon Office Solutions, he cashed out with a sale to Ricoh. It was a shrewd move, and Chambers has proved to be a shrewd guy.

With auto sales possibly peaking, now may be the time. Could the perfect exit strategy for Herb Chambers this time involve Berkshire?

© 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.

PUC Disapproval of NextEra’s Hawaiian Electric Bid Opens Door for Berkshire

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The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has denied NextEra Energy’s bid to acquire Hawaiian Electric Company, the Honolulu-based utility that provides power to all of Hawaii. The denial of NextEra’s application opens the door for a bid by Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

In a statement the PUC said that “…the Commission concluded that while the Applicants demonstrated that NextEra is fit, willing, and able to perform the services currently offered by the HECO Companies, the Applicants failed to demonstrate that the Application is reasonable and in the public interest. In reaching this conclusion, the Commission focused on five fundamental areas of concern: (1) benefits to ratepayers; (2) risks to ratepayers; (3) Applicants’ clean energy commitments; (4) the proposed Change of Control’s effect on local governance; and (5) the proposed Change of Control’s effect on competition in local energy markets.”

The denial came just weeks after Governor David Ige, who had opposed the merger, and has openly questioned NextEra Energy’s commitment to Hawaii’s goal of 100% renewable energy, appointed a new PUC Commissioner.

Renewable Energy? Berkshire’s a Believer

Berkshire Hathaway not only believes in renewable energy, it already has one of the largest renewable energy portfolios in the world. Its subsidiary BHE Renewables encompasses BHE Solar, BHE Wind, BHE Geothermal, BHE Hydro as well as renewable project development and commercial management. BHE Renewables owns solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric projects in eight states that produce energy for both the wholesale market and for customers under long-term power agreements.

The company already has 3,877 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, including one of the world’s largest solar farms, the 579 MW Solar Star project in southern California.

Another example of Berkshire’s commitment to renewable energy is in Iowa, where it is aggressively working towards producing 100% of the state’s energy needs through wind power.

In April, Berkshire’s MidAmerican Energy Company announced plans for a $3.6 billion, 2,000 megawatt wind farm in Iowa that will feature 1,000 wind turbines.

Berkshire’s Interest in Hawaiian Electric

Berkshire already has an energy asset in Hawaii. It owns BHE Hydro’s Wailuku run-of-river 10 megawatt hydro project in Hawaii. The hydroelectric project consists of a massive 60-inch pipeline located 2,000 feet above sea level that carries water nearly three miles, transporting it from the Wailuku River diversion all the way to the powerhouse.

In addition, Berkshire recently registered MidAmerican Energy Services LLC as a new business in Hawaii.

There are still plenty of hurdles for Berkshire to overcome before it can acquire Hawaiian Electric, including local opposition that fears outside ownership will lead to higher rates, but it just got a big step closer.

© 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 Energy Bidding for Oncor

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway Energy has been confirmed as one of two energy companies bidding for Oncor Electric Delivery Company, a regulated electric transmission and distribution service provider that serves 10 million customers across Texas.

Oncor has been in and out of auction ever since the April 2014 bankruptcy of its biggest shareholder, Energy Future Holdings. The company went under after being burdened with $40 billion in debt from a 2007 leveraged buyout.

NextEra Energy Inc. also has made an offer to acquire Oncor, and is considered one of the other competitors likely to take home the prize.

A Texas-Sized Asset

Oncor is a quite a prize. The company has the largest distribution and transmission system in Texas; with approximately 119,000 miles of lines and more than 3 million meters across the state.

The End of a Long Waiting Game

After originally pushing back the auction of Oncor from November 2014 to March 2015, it looked like no auction would ever happen. Instead, the creditors in the holding companies Energy Future Intermediate Holdings and Energy Future Holdings were expected to take ownership of Oncor.

Then, in September 2015, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi agreed to a plan by Hunt Consolidated that would have allowed the company to take ownership with Oncor’s current management remaining in place.

The deal eventually fell apart when Hunt Consolidated didn’t like the terms set by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Energy Transmission is Great ROE

Back in June 2014, Warren Buffett proclaimed he was ready to put at least $15 billion into energy generation and transmission assets, and at that time Oncor, with a value of roughly $17.5 billion looked like a good fit.

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 would be a perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which currently has $70 billion in assets, including one of the largest portfolios of renewable energy in the world.

© 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.

Richline Group Makes Third Acquisition This Year

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

One of the most active of Berkshire Hathaway’s companies this year in regards to acquisitions is one of its lesser known. The Richline Group, a fine jewelry manufacturer and marketer, has acquired its third company in the last three months.

Richline has announced the acquisition of Viawear, an innovative wearables provider for jewelry brands.

In April, Richline acquired Gemvara, a leading online provider of customizable fine jewelry, In June, Richline announced the acquisition of John C. Nordt, a leading manufacturer and supplier of precious metal products to the jewelry industry.

The acquisition of Viawear continues Richline’s focus on wearable tech, which included launching the Wearable Style News Website, and partnering with Omate on the distribution of Omate’s Ungaro smart ring.

“The world has embraced wearables, and we intend to provide our customers with the right jewelry products that blend seamlessly with the latest technology. Viawear’s technology and designs compliment everything we’ve set out to achieve in the smart jewelry space,” said Joel Schechter of the Richline Group.

According to Richline, Viawear has developed a unique approach to filtering mobile notifications and delivering the most contextual wearable alerts. With Viawear, wearers can stay connected to their most important alerts, and eliminate the need to constantly checking to see if they missed something important.

“Our objective has always been to develop smart accessories that truly complements our wearer’s lifestyle. Blending Richline’s tremendous jewelry acumen with Viawear’s technology platform allows us to make this vision into a reality that can help drive the world of fine jewelry into the world of wearable technology,” said Ben Isaacson, Founder and CEO of Viawear.

© 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.

Richline Group Acquires Second Company in 30 Days

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Things are really hopping at Berkshire Hathaway’s jewelry retailing and manufacturing companies.

Less than a month after it announced the purchase of online jewelry retailer Gemvara, Berkshire Hathaway’s Richline Group has announced it will acquire John C. Nordt, a leading manufacturer and supplier of precious metal products to the jewelry industry.

The acquisition will be completed on June 1, 2016.

Nordt has what it calls a unique and proprietary process of hot extrusion for precious metals. Known as FusionForged®, the technology creates metals of extreme ductility and sound micro structure which permit the creation of products of extreme precision and adaptability to many types of finished products including the setting of diamonds.

Joe Esposito, Richline’s EVP of Manufacturing said that, “Nordt is another important and strategic addition to our brands. The firm’s unique and successful business model is a tribute to the leadership of the Nordt family. The synergies between Nordt and our LeachGarner and Nobilis business units will accelerate our growth into the PGM industrial markets. Nordt has a great product line, talented people and long term relationships with its clients.”

Joe White, President of LeachGarner, A Richline Group Company stated, “The combination of Nordt’s proprietary process technology and LeachGarner’s scale is unique in the precious metal industry. We look forward to integrating our businesses to deliver enhanced value to our existing customer base and leveraging our new synergies outside our traditional channels.”

Founded in 1872 in New York City, Nordt has operated in Roanoke Virginia since 1984, where it has a 45,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant has been specifically designed to fabricate precious metals products including wedding bands, diamond rings, bracelets and tubing of highest quality under precise control guided by the certification of ISO 9001:2008.

Among the company’s services is private label manufacturing using its FusionForged metals.

Five generations of the Nordt family have led the firm over 140 years. Paul Nordt III, Rob Nordt, Sr. and Rob Nordt, Jr. will continue to lead the company along with a highly experienced professional management team.

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.

Buffett Regrets Lubrizol’s Acquisition of Phillips 66 Unit

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In December 2013, Berkshire Hathaway announced the $1.4 billion purchase of a Phillips 66 unit that specializes in increasing the flow potential of pipelines.

The company was the biggest bolt-on acquisition for Berkshire’s Lubrizol Corporation.

While Warren Buffett still likes Berkshire’s 2011 acquisition of specialty chemical maker Lubrizol, which he notes is in a “no growth but very good business,” he’d love a do-over on the addition of the Phillips 66 unit.

With the world-wide drop in oil prices, demand for pipeline additives have been hit hard, especially in the Bakken formation, where the high cost of fracking has capped many wells, and even put pipeline companies in financial trouble as drillers can’t pay the contracts they signed.

At the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Buffett called Lubrizol’s purchase of the Phillips 66 unit a “big mistake,” and noted that it “should not have been made.”

Fortunately, he has not soured on Lubrizol as a whole, which has continued to do acquisitions.

In 2014, Lubrizol acquired Weatherford International’s oilfield chemicals business, Engineered Chemistry, and its drilling fluids business, Integrity Industries.

It also acquired Particle Science in 2015. The company does drug product formulation and manufacturing.

Buffett noted that overall the acquisition of Lubrizol has been “very much as we anticipated.”

© 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.

Commentary: Is Westar Energy the Next Acquisition for Berkshire Hathaway?

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Kansas’s biggest utility, Westar Energy Inc., is looking for a buyer and Berkshire Hathaway Energy is rumored to be among the companies interested in the acquisition.

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.

If Berkshire Hathaway Energy proves to be interested, it will reportedly 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.

Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Ameren Corporation was created December 31, 1997 by the merger of Missouri’s Union Electric Company and the neighboring Central Illinois Public Service Company.

As for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, it has already partnered with Westar Energy on Prairie Wind Transmission, LLC, a 108-mile, 345-kilovolt high-capacity electrical transmission line in south-central Kansas that was completed in 2014.

Westar Energy would be a natural fit for both Berkshire Hathaway Energy and for Ameren.

Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy Company currently serves customers in a 10,600 square miles area composed of Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota and Nebraska.

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

© 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.