Buffett’s conglomerate closes $11.6B Alleghany insurance buy

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett’s company completed its largest acquisition in years Wednesday with its $11.6 billion purchase of the Alleghany insurance conglomerate.

The purchase announced in March will further expand Berkshire’s sizeable insurance operations and add a few more companies to its stable, including a steel fabricator and toy company owned by Alleghany.

In many ways, Alleghany is similar to Berkshire. Buffett’s Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate owns Geico, General Re and a number of other insurance companies, but it also owns BNSF railroad, several major utilities and an eclectic assortment of dozens of manufacturing and retail companies, including Precision Castparts, Dairy Queen, See’s Candy and NetJets.

Alleghany shareholders received $848.02 cash per share as part of the deal.

Much like it has done with other acquisitions, Berkshire will allow New York-based Alleghany to largely continue to run itself.

Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said Alleghany’s CEO Joe Brandon, who previously ran a different Berkshire insurance company, could one day be a candidate to replace Vice Chairman Ajit Jain and oversee all of Berkshire’s insurance companies.

Berkshire’s last major acquisition came in 2016 when it paid $32.36 billion to buy aviation parts maker Precision Castparts. Buffett has always been reluctant to overpay for acquisitions, and he has said Berkshire faces more competition for deals these days from private-equity firms.

But Buffett has put more than $51 billion to work in the stock market this year, including buying up roughly $12 billion worth of Occidental Petroleum stock and another $20 billion worth of Chevron shares to bet big on oil production.

Still, Berkshire was sitting on $105.4 billion cash at the end of the second quarter.

It will use some of that at the start of next year to more than double its stake in the Pilot chain of more than 800 truck stops across 44 states and six Canadian provinces. The terms of Buffett’s 2017 agreement call for it to boost its stake from its current 38.6% ownership to 80% in 2023. That will leave the Haslam family that runs the business based in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a 20% stake.

Shanahan estimated that the Pilot deal will use at least $3.5 billion, but Berkshire has never disclosed the terms of that deal.

In addition to owning more than 90 operating companies, Berkshire holds a sizeable investment portfolio with major stakes in Apple, Bank of America, American Express and Coca-Cola among other companies.

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