Buffett pays rich price for 'elephant' deal
Warren Buffett gobbles up Heinz
Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital agree to buy Heinz for $28 billion in a mega food buyout.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B) has teamed up with Brazilian investor Jorge Paulo Lemann to buy ketchup giant Heinz (NYSE: HNZ).
At a 20 per cent premium to yesterday's closing price and easily an all-time high share price, Heinz investors - including the family of US Secretary of State John Kerry - are getting a great deal.
Berkshire and Lemann's 3G Capital will split Heinz's equity (about $US4 billion [$A3.87 billion] each, according to Buffett), while Berkshire is putting up more cash in exchange for preferred stock. Berkshire will put up about $US13 billion in cash - a decent chunk of the $US47 billion cash it held at the end of September.
Warren Buffett is paying big bucks for a brand he says he's "sampled many times". Photo: Justin McManus JZM
On CNBC, Buffett said 3G will handle Heinz's operations. "[3G] is our partner, but it's their baby from an operational standpoint," he said. So even though Heinz is being purchased in its entirety, this deal from Berkshire's point of view is more akin to purchasing a passive stake of common stock in the open market, rather than the whole takeovers Buffett has done in the past, like the purchase of Burlington Northern.
The business is classic Buffett - a 150-year-old company with an iconic brand and a product Buffett says he's "sampled many times".
What's odd is the price. Buffett and Lemann are paying a rich valuation of about 20 times earnings. Asked why he was willing to pay such a premium, Buffett joked: "I'm never willing. They drag me to the altar, always," and proceeded to talk about the strength of Heinz's brands. Time will tell how it plays out.
With a market cap of almost $250 billion, Berkshire needs big deals to move the needle. Buffett calls them "elephant deals." "I'm ready for another elephant. If you see any walking by, please, call me," he said on the day of the Heinz deal.
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Morgan Housel is a Motley Fool feature writer. He owns shares in Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool's purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.