BYD’s 60-Foot Articulated Battery-Electric Bus Rolls in North America

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Chinese battery and vehicle maker BYD has delivered the longest pure electric bus in North America. The 60-foot articulated battery-electric transit bus will go in service for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) in Los Angeles County, California.

The bus, part of AVTA’s award-winning campaign to fully electrify its fleet by 2018, was also built with local labor in BYD’s factory in Lancaster, just miles from the AVTA office. It is the first delivery from AVTA’s order of thirteen 60-foot BYD buses.

“The Antelope Valley Transit Authority is leading the North American transit market with its electrification commitment, and so it’s only fitting that they should have the first bus of its kind in North America,” said Macy Neshati, Senior Vice President of BYD Heavy Industries. “This bus runs longer and holds more passengers than any other commercially available battery-electric bus, and I know it will serve the people of the Antelope Valley well.”

Len Engel, Executive Director of the Antelope Valley Transit Authority, added, “We’ve been proud to be at the forefront of the smart business of electrification, protecting our air, saving money, and creating local jobs here in the Antelope Valley. Having the first 60-foot articulated electric transit bus on the continent is a feather in the cap of the people of Lancaster, Palmdale, and the other communities we serve.”

The 60-foot BYD bus seats up to 60 people and provides a range of 200 miles on a single charge with full charging completed in two to three hours. It will join the rest of the AVTA fleet in serving the half million residents of northern Los Angeles County.

BYD and Berkshire Hathaway

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has paid off handsomely. Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million is now worth roughly $1.8 billion.

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 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.

Gen Re to Offer Reinsurance in India

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Gen Re has received approval from the Insurance Regulation and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) to open a branch in Mumbai (R3 license).

The new branch structure will now allow Gen Re to deliver underwriting and risk management expertise locally rather than cross-border. It will facilitate an optimal business model, both efficient in process and highly beneficial to clients. Gen Re has already been committed to the Indian market for the past 15 years through various channels, most recently through a local support services company in Mumbai. The focus was primarily on the Life and Health sector. Gen Re will continue contributing and expanding in this segment while simultaneously exploring opportunities to grow its presence in the Property/Casualty reinsurance market.

Venkatesh N. Chakravarty will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer and lead the branch. Bringing almost three decades of re/insurance experience to the role, he has held senior positions with both an international and domestic focus. Venkatesh will also hold operational responsibility for the Life/Health business. The Property/Casualty business will be headed by Nighat Khan.

Speaking recently, Winfried Heinen, Chairman of the Executive Board of Directors of General Reinsurance AG, said, “We are delighted about the opening of the Indian market. Establishing a reinsurance branch is an important milestone for us. We firmly believe in the great potential of the Indian market, especially for life and health insurance products. With Venkatesh as our local head we have an extraordinarily professional and capable team in place to lead this important move. I am excited about the opportunities on the horizon.”

“The new structure will enable us to provide technical and risk management services locally. Beyond classic reinsurance of traditional lines of business, the development of innovative life and health insurance products with and for our clients is at the core of our value proposition. We are now ideally positioned to meet the demands and challenges of the market,” added Venkatesh Chakravarty.

© 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.

Benjamin Moore Becomes Innovation Partner with American Institute of Architects

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Berkshire Hathaway’s wholly-owned Benjamin Moore has become an Innovation Partner of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The new relationship will leverage Benjamin Moore’s thought leadership in the design and architecture market through content and education programs, while also providing support to students of architecture who are on the path to licensure.

Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world.

“We are delighted to have the support of Benjamin Moore as an Innovation Partner of the AIA,” noted Robert Ivy, FAIA, EVP/Chief Executive Officer of the AIA. “Their knowledge and expertise in paints and stains can help us serve architects and advance good design in the built environment.”

“Benjamin Moore is proud to partner with the AIA on their efforts to offer continuing education and ongoing support for the architectural community,” said Veronica Connallon Arcaroli, Director, Architect and Designer Segment at Benjamin Moore.

“We are committed to providing resources and opportunities that help architects and other trade professionals enhance their development and growth within the industry.”

© 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.

Holland The Latest Country Ordering BYD Pure Electric Buses

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Holland is the latest country to order BYD’s pure electric buses, as the company continues to make inroads in selling its vehicles around the world.

BYD achieved a record five billion RMB profit in 2016.

Syntus, a Keolis Group company, has confirmed orders for a total of nine BYD pure electric 12m single deck ebuses for service in two Dutch cities, Amersfoort and Almere.

The Amersfoort order calls for six-year service agreement while in Almere there is a 10-year service agreement. In Almere two BYD demonstrator vehicles will provide service from April until the new buses are delivered.

Cees Anker, the Syntus General Manager who signed the contract with BYD, commented:

“We consider it as our responsibility to reduce the environmental impact and we are proud that we will operate these buses in Amersfoort and Almere. The deployment of these electric buses fits with the strategy of Syntus as a subsidiary of Keolis on sustainable mobility.”

BYD and Berkshire Hathaway

In 2008, Berkshire Hathaway bet on BYD’s potential, purchasing 225 million shares. It’s an investment that has paid off handsomely. Berkshire’s original investment of $230 million is now worth roughly $1.77 billion.

For More on BYD, read the Special Report: BYD, Berkshire’s Tesla.

© 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.

Salt River Project to Join Western Energy Imbalance Market

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Another utility is joining the western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) that has been saving two Berkshire Hathaway utilities, PacifiCorp and NV Energy, millions of dollars a year.

The Salt River Project (SRP) signed an agreement for the Phoenix-based municipal utility to participate in the EIM beginning in April 2020.

“The EIM produces efficient use of resources and lower costs of energy for participating utilities,” said Steve Berberich, ISO President and CEO. “We welcome Salt River Project to the western EIM and look forward to working with the utility for a seamless entry in 2020.”

SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest provider of electricity in the greater Phoenix area. It serves more than 1 million customers and is the metropolitan area’s largest supplier of water.

It is estimated that SRP, which has been serving central Arizona since 1903, can save up to $4.5 million annually by participating in the EIM.

“The EIM can help save money for SRP and its customers by providing real-time access to the lowest cost resources across a significant portion of the Western grid,” said John Coggins, Senior Director of Power Delivery. “It will complement SRP owned generating resources and energy purchases from the wholesale market.”

The western EIM’s advanced market systems automatically find the lowest-cost energy to serve real-time consumer demands of participating utilities. This market enables utilities to buy and sell power more efficiently in the hour before the energy is needed, with five-minute plant dispatching, which result in improved efficiencies and cost savings.

Current western EIM participants, which include the two Berkshire Hathaway Energy companies, have realized savings totaling nearly $142 million since the wholesale market was launched in November 2014.

Utilities now active in the western EIM include Oregon-based PacifiCorp; NV Energy of Las Vegas, NV; Puget Sound Energy of Washington state; and Arizona Public Service of Phoenix, Ariz.

Other utilities that have formally agreed to join the EIM include Portland General Electric on October 1, 2017, Idaho Power on April 1, 2018, and Seattle City Light and Balancing Area of Northern California/Sacramento Municipal Utility District on April 1, 2019.

The western EIM serves utility consumers in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

© 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.

Duracell Sues Wholesaler Over Grey Market Batteries

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Berkshire Hathaway’s battery-maker Duracell has sued a St. Louis-based battery wholesaler that is selling grey market Duracell batteries in the U.S. market.

The wholesaler, JRS Ventures Inc., has been sued for trademark infringement by Duracell in The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

According to Duracell the batteries were never intended for direct purchase by consumers.

In its lawsuit, Duracell noted:

“Although the batteries appear to be authentic Duracell products, many of them were manufactured in China, for the sole purpose of being distributed to [original equipment manufacturers] only, and not for the importation and direct sale to consumers in the United States,” Duracell states in its filing.

While Duracell admits that the batteries are genuine, it notes that the batteries that JRS Ventures are selling lack Duracell’s consumer information and its 10-year guarantee.

Duracell asserts that purchasers of the batteries “are likely to be confused and indeed disappointed.”

“Further, such sales of infringing products cause great damage to Duracell and greatly damage the goodwill in Duracell’s valuable trademarks.”

Duracell is asking for the court to halt the sale of the batteries and award unspecified punitive and triple damages.

© 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.

Data Centers Offer Growth Opportunity for NV Energy

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Berkshire Hathaway’s NV Energy is looking towards an expanding number of Nevada-based data centers to fuel its growth.

The key is so called green tariffs, where corporations negotiate that all the power will come from renewable sources.

In January 2017, NV Energy and Apple reached an agreement to build 200 megawatts of additional solar energy in Nevada by early 2019. The project will support Apple’s renewable energy needs for its Reno data center. And in May, Apple announced that it had committed $1 billion too expand its data center at the Reno Technology Park.

Reno has become a hub for giant data centers powered by renewable energy, and in addition to Apple, Google has a data center there as well.

NV Energy has filed an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the solar power plant.

The project will bring NV Energy’s total to more than 529 megawatts of new solar resources in construction in Nevada or under review for approval.

Why Nevada for Data Centers?

Key to data centers is reliability, and Nevada offers several important benefits weather-wise in that area. In addition to having lots of sunshine for solar power, the state doesn’t suffer from floods, hurricanes or tornados.

There already are 491 megawatts of universal solar resources in Nevada currently serving NV Energy customers. Apple will also dedicate up to 5 megawatts of power to NV Energy’s future subscription solar program for residential and commercial customers.

© 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.

Vietnam Key to Dairy Queen’s Asia Expansion

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While Berkshire Hathaway’s Dairy Queen already has over 700 stores in China, it’s Vietnam that the company is focusing on to grow its Asia strategy.

In China, Dairy Queen is a frozen treats only business, and it’s one of the country’s leaders in that category, but in Vietnam, DQ is looking to build stores that feature its food line up as well.

“Vietnam is very important market for us,” DQ CEO John Gainor says. “Vietnam is where we can show that we will do a great job on food as well as frozen treats.”

Unlike some American quick service franchisors that have struggled internationally because their foods are unfamiliar to local tastes and customs, DQ is listening closely to its franchisee to adapt to the Vietnam market.

They key is adapting menu items and offering new items that best suit the Vietnamese consumer. Unlike in the U.S., DQ’s Vietnam stores will serve bone-in chicken.

And since eating a hamburger is a new experience, and people don’t tend to directly touch their food while consuming it in the way American diners do, they are providing an added wrap around the hamburgers.

“They don’t want to pick up their food with their hands and we are adapting to that,” Gainor says.

Also, since hamburgers are a less familiar food in Vietnam, DQ is focusing much of its food promotion on its chicken menu items.

DQ is also adapting its frozen treats to Asian tastes, offering flavors such as green tea with red bean, almond and extra green tea.

There are already several locations open in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and DQ is aiming for five of its Grill & Chill locations and fifteen treats only locations.

Our slogan is “Fan Food not Fast Food,” notes Gainor. “We are looking to make fans of our food the way people are in the U.S.,” where the brand has very high customer loyalty built on its 77-year history.

There are currently over DQ 6,000 restaurants in the United States, Canada and 18 other countries.

For more information on Dairy Queen’s world-wide plans, read a Mazor’sEdge special report on Dairy Queen.

© 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.

Buffett Reveals Terms of Failed Unilever Bid

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Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital Partners’ recent unsolicited offer for Unilever may have flopped, but it hasn’t soured Warren Buffett on working with 3G on more acquisitions.

The two entities have worked together on the takeover of Kraft to form Kraft Heinz, and Berkshire provided financing for 3G’s merger of Burger King and Tim Hortons that became Restaurant Brands International. The merger made Berkshire a minority owner of the combined company.

At the annual shareholder’s meeting, Buffett detailed that both Berkshire and 3G were prepared to each put $15 billion into the Unilever transaction.

Some in the press have questioned whether 3G’s extreme cost-cutting made the deal unpalatable for Unilever.

While a shareholder questioned whether 3G’s emphasis on layoffs as part of its cost-cutting strategy was in line with Berkshire’s corporate culture, both Buffett and Charlie Munger noted that improvements in productivity have often lead to layoffs.

Munger noted that he doesn’t long for the days of elevator operators, and “We don’t want to go back to the days of subsistence farming.”

While Munger didn’t see a particular “moral fault” in 3G’s strategy, Buffett was clearly sensitive to the impact on displaced workers.

“If you look at any industry, they are trying to get more productive,” Buffett said. Still he noted that society’s improved living standard as a whole can be of little comfort to an individual that has lost their job, and he wishes there could be another way.

Buffett did term 3G’s severance packages at Kraft Heinz “more than fair.”

© 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.

Buffett Says Wells Fargo “Incentivized the Wrong Type of Behavior”

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Warren Buffett continued to take aim at Wells Fargo during his answers to shareholders’ questions at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting.

He noted that Wells Fargo “incentivized the wrong type of behavior,” and felt that its CEO John Stumpf, was slow in responding to the scandal.

Berkshire Hathaway is Wells Fargo’s largest shareholder at just under ten percent of the company.

The stock has been one of Berkshire’s long term core holdings, and so far it has shown no sign of selling its position.

Still, Buffett emphasized that he was not pleased with the actions Stumpf took.

“If there’s a major problem, the CEO will get wind of it. At that moment, that’s the key to everything. The CEO has to act,” Buffett said. “The main problem was they didn’t act when they learned about it.”

Some 5,300 employees were eventually fired for creating over 2 million phony accounts tied to existing customers in order to meet sales goals, and Stumpf ended up resigning.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” Buffett said, noting the old adage. “A pound of cure is worth a ton of cure delayed,” he added.

© 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.