As is now widely known, the H.J. Heinz company is being acquired by hedge fund 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway, in an interesting joint-venture deal that will take the world’s largest ketchup manufacturer private.
The terms are fantastic for shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, which makes me happy as the conglomerate represents my largest public securities market holding as of this afternoon, representing 36% of the net asset value of all common stockholdings across the personal portfolios with an aggregate average cost basis comfortably below book value.
The short version from what has been made available about the Heinz buyout thus far:
- $4.12 billion will be funded by 3G Capital writing a check for common equity
- $4.12 billion will be funded by Berkshire Hathaway writing a check for common equity
- $8.00 billion will be funded by Berkshire Hathaway writing a check for preferred stock, which will pay 9% dividends each year
- $7.10 billion will be funded by bank debt provided through Wells Fargo and JP Morgan
- $100 million will be funded by warrants issued to Berkshire Hathaway
This is a beautiful deal structure for Berkshire Hathaway stockholders. 3G Capital will provide all of the management for the private Heinz company so Berkshire Hathaway doesn’t have to think about how to run the business. As it waits for the ketchup maker to spin-off or sell its frozen food division, cut expenses, and restructure, Berkshire Hathaway will receive $720 million per year in cash dividends on its preferred stock. If Berkshire Hathaway decides to exercise the warrants, it could write another large check and become the majority owner of H.J. Heinz, taking control.
Under almost all scenarios, it is very difficult to see how the entire H.J. Heinz deal hasn’t paid for itself within 10 years. By 2023 or 2024, Berkshire Hathaway should have gotten all of its money back, plus it will still own the storied Pittsburg-based saucier.
The Past Twenty Years, Berkshire Hathaway Has Put Together Some Amazing Deals
Honestly, I can’t get over how much Berkshire Hathaway has changed since I bought my first share. It’s so much better now than it was even 10 years ago. On top of the recent H.J. Heinz deal, you have Lubrizol and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. You have Marmon Holdings and Iscar Metalworking. I mean, when I was first reading about the business, it didn’t even own 100% of GEICO, yet. Its buyout of General Re when I was in high school was a huge deal at the time and now it’s ancient history. The Berkshire Hathaway of 2013 is a powerhouse compared to the Berkshire Hathaway of 1993. The past twenty years have been unreal.
I imagine my family will continue to hold Berkshire Hathaway shares long after Warren and Charlie have passed away and the firm has begun paying out most of its earnings as cash dividends, using the stream of money to fund other investments. I’ve been buying them practically my entire adult life, and studying them since I first read Peter Lynch’s famous book in 1992.
As weird as it sounds, I feel the same way about my shares in the corporation as I do about my parents’ manufacturing business or my sporting goods businesses. I love the firm, and not just because my childhood heroes built it. I love the strategy – the sourcing of low cost capital through insurance float. I love the economics – take a look at the tangible return on capital earned by some of the subsidiaries. I love the history – how it was built by compounding good decision after good decision until you suddenly have this incalculably large behemoth. I love getting the annual report each year and calculating just how much of that net worth, and those profits, belong to me.
That doesn’t mean I’ll lose my objectivity. If we suddenly found ourselves in a world where it was selling at 5x book value or future management is starting to trade in all sorts of crazy derivatives while levering up the balance sheet, I’d probably liquidate the holdings. I’d hate it, but I’d be rational about it. Still, I am optimistic that it can someday transform itself into a system – like Procter & Gamble, General Electric, or Johnson & Johnson. That way, I have a good shot at passing on the shares to my own children and grandchildren. That thought brings me a lot of joy.
And now, H.J. Heinz is part of the story. Can you imagine if, 25 years in the future, Berkshire Hathaway pulls a Ma Bell and splits itself up in a series of massive spinoffs? It would be one of the biggest events in Wall Street history. That would be crazy … you’d have the furniture group, the jewelry group, the insurance group, the homebuilders, the power plants, the railroad, the candy and food group … I can’t even imagine. That would exciting to witness. I’m not saying I’d want it to happen – I’m perfectly content to sit back and collect dividends for the next few decades once Messrs Buffett and Munger have given up on trying to put the surplus capital to work; a day that will inevitably come. But it would be exciting.