Now that Kraft is part of Kraft Heinz, the aggressive cost cutting that 3G Capital brought to Heinz has come to Kraft as well. Gone are the days of a host of perks, including a free supply of Kraft snack foods for employees, or even minifridges in the office.
It’s no surprise, as 3G is known for imposing cost controls big and small that include cuts to travel expenses, limits on the number of printer copies that can be made each month, the elimination of snacks in break rooms, and new mandates on cutting electricity usage.
The same goes for personnel, and 3G has already begun trimming and replacing employees, including the departure of Kraft’s Chief Financial Officer James Kehoe.
What Do Warren and Charlie Think?
While 3G’s ruthless cost-cutting has dismayed some Berkshire shareholders, it has not offended either Warren Buffett or Charlie Munger, who see it as necessary to keep complacent, century-old companies competitive in the modern world. After all, layoffs were in Berkshire Hathaway from the start, as Buffett fought to keep the failing textile company afloat.
At the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting both Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger strongly supported 3G’s strategy.
“3G has been buying businesses that have too many people,” Buffett explained. “You will have never found a statement from Charlie or me saying that a business should have more people than needed,” Buffett added.
The cost cutting has also pleased Wall Street, as shares of Kraft Heinz (KHC) are already up roughly 9% since their trading debut on July 7.
Berkshire’s move to partner with 3G, which combined own 51% of Kraft Heinz, with Berkshire the largest single shareholder at 26%, has been a very profitable way for Berkshire to put its mountain of cash to use. Andrew Bary of Barron’s calculated that Berkshire’s $9.25 billion investment in Heinz and Kraft are now worth $16 billion. He called it “a stunning profit in just two years.”
With 3G also having turned to Berkshire for cash to finance its Burger King takeover of Tim Hortons, a move that has gave Berkshire 8% of the combined company, it looks like Buffett’s and Munger’s interest in 3G’s management style is growing not waning.
© 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.