Warren Buffett Set to Become a Texas Energy Tycoon
”When we invest in Texas, we invest big!”
Warren Buffett wasn’t born in Texas, but he got here as fast as he could. Or at least his money did.
Buffett’s latest investment is a $9 billion, all-cash deal to buy Energy Future Holdings, the parent company of Texas electric grid giant Oncor. The subsidiary is the biggest utility in Texas, according to the New York Times, clocking in at 10 million customers.
The billionaire marked the announcement of his Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway’s bid for Energy Future with an ego boost to a state he’s often turned to for investments. “Oncor is an excellent fit for Berkshire Hathaway, and we are pleased to make another long-term investment in Texas—when we invest in Texas, we invest big!” Buffett said in a statement. “Oncor is a great company with similar values and outstanding assets.”
Aw, shucks. That certainly plays at the heartstrings of many Texans (and more importantly, many Texas companies), but Buffett isn’t making deals just to show some Lone Star love. Buffett has a solid track record with investments in Texas. According to CNBC, Berkshire Hathaway owns nearly a dozen other companies headquartered in the state, which it has snapped up through various acquisitions. Most notably, Warren bet big on Fort Worth-based Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., one of the largest railroads in the U.S. In November 2009, Berkshire Hathaway announced that it would absorb the rest of the company it didn’t already own, inking the largest deal in the company’s history with a $34 billion total investment.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, this latest investment is part of Buffett’s energy ambitions. “Berkshire Hathaway Energy, formerly known as MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., contributed about 9.5 percent of Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings of $24.07 billion last year,” WSJ reported. “Berkshire Hathaway Energy said it is the second-biggest utility in the U.S. by 2016 net income, serving customers in 18 Western and Midwestern states as well as in the U.K. and Canada.”
Although energy companies are generally considered safe investments, Energy Future could pose a unique challenge. According to the New York Times, three investment firms—including none other than Berkshire Hathaway—have invested and then subsequently sold shares in the company. The embattled Energy Future has been in bankruptcy proceedings for three years, following a buyout from TXU in 2007 that was banking on natural gas prices to rise, thus raising electricity prices. But when natural gas plunged, according to Reuters, the gamble didn’t pay off. Energy Future went bankrupt in 2014.
Still, according to the New York Times, Berkshire Hathaway—which has a strong reputation in the investment world—could be the perfect fit for buying out a beleaguered company that has spent years dealing with bankruptcy proceedings. However Buffett’s bet plays out, his ambition feels right at home in Texas.