I've noticed the same thing as a SeekingAlpha contributor. It seems Berkshire Hathaway / Warren Buffett, at least the public persona, is morphing from an investment company / investor to an operating company / operator ...
... recent major acquisitions have begun a transformation into a New Berkshire Hathaway, which is less an investment company and more an operating company. I saw this transformation as a positive ongoing development which held the promise of renewed and sustained growth.From Investor's Business Daily:
The acquisition of the flow improver business, which makes chemicals to boost pipeline flows, is the latest energy deal for Berkshire Hathaway.
Last month, it reduced its ConocoPhillips (COP) stake to 13.5 million shares from 24.2 million in June and disclosed a 40 million-share stake in Exxon Mobil (XOM).
In May, Berkshire doubled its stake in oilfield equipment maker National Oilwell Varco (NOV) to 7.5 million shares or $529.5 million.
Berkshire Hathaway's BNSF Railway has also benefitted from the U.S. energy boom by hauling crude from shale fields. But on Monday, a Burlington Northern train carrying crude oil crashed into another train in North Dakota causing an explosion that left 10 cars on fire. No injuries were reported.And from Motley Fool:
Warren Buffett has long liked the consistency of energy stocks, but he's stepped up his energy buying in 2013. He bought a $3.5 billion stake in ExxonMobil in the second half of this year and agreed to pay $5.6 billion to buy utility NV Energy in May.
Last night, it was announced that Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway would use about 19 million of its long-held shares of Phillips 66 to acquire a unit of that energy company that makes chemicals to improve the flow of pipelines. The unit will essentially be folded into Lubrizol, which was another Berkshire acquisition in 2011.
Buying energy isn't just about buying big oil or utilities, like Buffett did with ExxonMobil and NV Energy. There's ways to profit from products energy needs as well.
In recent years, the oil and natural gas pipeline business has become just as important as exploration and production because it makes recovered oil economical. New shale plays in North Dakota, Texas, and elsewhere have resulted in a surge in pipeline building and stress on some of the existing infrastructure. Creating products that help energy flow through pipelines is the bet here as the need for pipelines isn't going anywhere soon.
You could say the same for Berkshire's acquisition of Burlington Northern in 2009. That's not an energy company, but a large portion of its business involves moving coal and even oil around the country. Buffett was using the need for energy to his advantage in that purchase as well.