Warren Buffett backs Occidental’s bid for Anadarko with $10 billion investment

Warren E. Buffett hasn’t shown much interest in oil stocks in recent years, but that changed on Tuesday when his company, Berkshire Hathaway, committed $10 billion to help Occidental Petroleum compete in a bidding war for Anadarko Petroleum.

Occidental is hoping Mr. Buffett’s reputation as one of the world’s most successful investors will bolster its proposal and financial position relative to Chevron, a company four times its size. At stake is a commanding position in the Permian Basin, the world’s most productive oil field, which straddles Texas and New Mexico.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Chevron’s proposed $33 billion acquisition of Anadarko looked like a done deal. But on Monday, Anadarko’s board said it was considering Occidental’s bid, which is roughly 20 percent higher than Chevron’s.

Should Occidental acquire Anadarko, Berkshire would invest $10 billion in new preferred shares that have an 8 percent annual dividend.

“We are thrilled to have Berkshire Hathaway’s financial support of this exciting opportunity,” Vicki Hollub, Occidental’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We look forward to engaging with Anadarko’s board of directors to deliver this superior transaction to our respective shareholders.”

Occidental’s takeover offer of $76 per share in cash and stock values Anadarko at $38 billion. Including Anadarko’s debt brings the value of the offer up to $57 billion. With debt included, Chevron’s bid would value Anadarko at about $50 billion.

Analysts said Mr. Buffett’s involvement would help Occidental’s chances, even though the company probably would have been able to finance the deal without the billionaire investor, by issuing debt and common stock.

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“Anadarko’s board may well look at Buffett’s proposed investment as a ‘seal of approval,’ an intangible but potentially valuable factor as the board is thinking about which bid to end up backing,” analysts at Raymond James wrote in an research note.

Raymond James added that Mr. Buffett’s 8 percent dividend “is not cheap,” in part because Occidental would not be able to treat the $800 million it pays Berkshire Hathaway as a tax-deductible expense.

By comparison, Occidental’s 30-year bonds maturing in 2048 had a yield of 4.36 percent on Tuesday. Companies can deduct some of the interest they pay on bonds and other kinds of debt from their taxes.

Chevron has repeatedly said its agreement with Anadarko will prevail because its assets, including Gulf of Mexico drilling and natural gas exporting facilities, make it a better fit.

Berkshire Hathaway has significant energy investments, but they are mostly in power generation and transmission. They include PacifiCorp, a power and grid operator that serves six Western states, and Northern Natural Gas, the nation’s largest interstate natural gas pipeline system. Berkshire has modest investments in Phillips 66, a refiner, and Suncor Energy, a Canadian oil sands business.

The conglomerate also owns Burlington Northern Santa Fe, a major transporter of crude oil. It previously had large investments in Exxon Mobil and Kinder Morgan, the oil and gas pipeline company, but sold those positions.

Mr. Buffett has shifted his electricity holdings toward renewable energy like wind and hydroelectric power. By investing in Occidental, he would be making a bet on oil production, although he may find a kindred spirit in Ms. Hollub, who has said the oil companies need to address climate change and has invested in a Canadian company that is seeking to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

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Mr. Buffett’s proposed investment is the kind of expensive financing that he has offered before. As part of a joint bid with the investment firm 3G Capital to buy H. J. Heinz in 2013, Berkshire invested $8 billion in preferred shares that paid a 9 percent annual dividend.

Berkshire also bought preferred shares in General Electric and Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis, effectively extending Mr. Buffett’s credibility to help restore investor confidence in those businesses — at the steep price of a 10 percent annual dividend.

But the most valuable piece of Anadarko is its prime holdings in the Permian Basin, where it has identified 10,000 drilling locations. The Permian produces roughly four million barrels of oil a day, about a third of all American production. It is the hub of a shale drilling boom that has made the United States a major oil exporter over the last three years.

Construction of pipelines over the next two years should allow oil companies to increase production in the Permian even further.

The current bid for Anadarko is Occidental’s fourth in two years.

Chevron shares closed up 2 percent on Tuesday, while Occidental shares fell 2.1 percent. Share of Anadarko were little changed.

Source: nytimes.com