Warren Buffett likes to refer to his hunting for big companies, such as his acquisition of BNSF Railway, and the recently announced Precision Castparts Corp., as hunting for elephants with his “elephant gun.”
While each year Berkshire does on average $3 billion of bolt-on acquisitions for its various companies, it takes something really elephant-sized to move the needle on a conglomerate with a market value of a third of a trillion dollars.
Those kinds of deals, be they BNSF, Kraft Heinz, or Precision Castparts, also mean that the Buffett’s elephant gun will be quiet while he refills the cash coffers. Berkshire is spending down its $66 billion in cash by $20 billion, and Buffet likes to maintain at least $20 billion in cash as a reserve in the case of economic downturns.
Buffett Reloads the Cash
“This takes us out of the market for an elephant but we will probably be buying a few small things in the next 6 months,” Buffett recently remarked, explaining the deal for Precision Castparts. “We are in negotiations on a couple but in terms of a deal of similar size it pretty much takes us out. What we will probably do on this one, we will probably borrow about $10 billion and use about $23 billion of our own cash on that order. We’ll be left with over $40 billion probably in cash when we get all through. But I like to have a lot of cash at all times, so this means we have to reload over the next 12 months or so, but it doesn’t preclude doing smaller deals, but we will be doing a few probably.”
That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles
So, despite the recent excitement around activist investor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square having taken a $5.5 billion stake in snack food company Mondelez, perhaps with the goal of seeing it sold to a buyer like Berkshire, don’t look for it to merge into either Berkshire or Kraft Heinz any time soon.
© 2015 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.