Commentary: Could the Door Open Again for a Berkshire Acquisition of Oncor?

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Berkshire Hathaway’s ongoing interest in acquiring Oncor Electric Delivery might still have a chance, if only a faint one.

Sempra Energy, which this August outbid Berkshire for Oncor, is running into some of the same resistance that torpedoed the last two attempts to acquire what is the largest distribution and transmission system in Texas.

Sempra’s $9.45 billion bid won out after Berkshire refused to get into a bidding war and stood firm on its $9 billion all-cash consideration that implied an equity value of approximately $11.25 billion for 100% of Oncor.

Now, San Diego-based Sempra has to gain the approval of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Commissioner Ken Anderson is raising concerns on the amount of money Sempra will have to raise in order to finance the deal and the credit rating of the company.

The PUC has to rule on whether the Sepra deal is in the public’s interest, and on October 5, Moody’s Investors Service issued a comment titled “Sempra Energy: Revised structure for EFH/Oncor acquisition reduces complexity but transaction remains credit negative.”

Credit negative is not the case with Berkshire. Certainly, financing a deal is not a problem for Berkshire, as it is sitting on over $100 billion in cash that it has been hard-pressed to invest as of late.

Commissioner Anderson’s concern is a valid one, as Oncor has been mired in the decade long financial morass that found its parent company Energy Future Holdings Corp. in bankruptcy after being loaded with $40 billion in debt from a leveraged buy-out engineered by private equity firms KKR & Co. and TPG.

While it’s a longshot that Berkshire can get another shot at Oncor, perhaps a very long shot, the one thing Texas ratepayers need at this point is financial stability.

© 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.