Special Report: Cornelius Acquisition Makes Berkshire Hathaway the World Leader in Beverage Dispensing

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway has leapt to the forefront of the beverage dispensing business with the acquisition of Cornelius, Inc.

Cornelius manufactures a complete line of beverage dispensers that are used by leading food service and retail companies, including PepsiCo, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Yum, Starbucks, and Burger King.

On January 2, 2014, Berkshire Hathaway’s wholly owned Marmon Group closed on the $1.1 billion acquisition of Cornelius, acquiring the company from Birmingham, England-based IMI plc (LON: IMI).

Founded by Richard Cornelius in 1931 in the basement of his Minneapolis home, Cornelius began by making the first diaphragm- type compressor for dispensing beer. Today, the company is headquartered in Osseo, Minnesota, and is the world’s leading supplier of beverage dispensing and cooling equipment.

Cornelius has 4,500 employees, with manufacturing facilities in seven countries, spanning North America, Europe, and China.

Berkshire and Marmon

In 2007, Berkshire Hathaway acquired 60% of Marmon Group for $4.5 billion from the Pritzker Family of Chicago. At the time, Marmon was made up of 125 manufacturing and service businesses that all operated independently within diverse business sectors.

Berkshire has gradually increased its stake in Marmon even as Marmon has grown, and in 2013 it bought the remaining 20% share owned by the Pritzker Family.

Today, Marmon Group has 160 independent manufacturing and service businesses and employs 17,000 people worldwide.

Marmon’s Revenue Growth

According to the 2013 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report, “Marmon’s consolidated revenues in 2012 were $7.2 billion, an increase of 3.6% over 2011. Consolidated pre-tax earnings were $1.1 billion in 2012, an increase of 14.6% over 2011. In 2012 pre-tax earnings as a percentage of revenues were 15.9% compared to 14.3% in 2011.”

What does the future hold?

The acquisition of Cornelius is all part of the Marmon Group’s continued growth of its Marmon Food Service Equipment businesses, which include Prince Castle, a manufacturer of hot food holding bins, and Silver King, a maker of cold food storage units.

Berkshire and Food Service

One thing is clear, if you are in the fast food business, you are likely dealing with at least one Berkshire holding.

As IMI chief executive Martin Lamb told Bloomberg News “Marmon are in this space, they are buying it to build it, rather than make cuts.”

That buy-hold-build strategy is the heart of the Berkshire Hathaway philosophy.

© 2014 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.