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Feb 15, 2013 07:02 PM IST | Source: CNBC

I am ready for another elephant: Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett told CNBC that even after teaming up with 3G Capital Management to acquire H.J. Heinz, he's still looking for another big acquisition and has the cash to pay for one.

I am ready for another elephant: Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett told CNBC that even after teaming up with 3G Capital Management to acquire H.J. Heinz, he's still looking for another big acquisition and has the cash to pay for one.


Speaking in a live "Squawk Box" telephone interview with CNBC's Becky Quick, Buffett joked, "I'm ready for another elephant. Please, if you see any walking by, just call me."


Also read: Warren Buffett on Heinz: 'My Kind of Deal' 


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That's a reference to his letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in 2011, in which he wrote about the need for major acquisitions to maintain growth in the company's non-insurance businesses. "We're prepared. Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy."


Buffett said Berkshire is contributing "something between" USD 12 and USD 13 billion of the deal, so there's plenty of cash available for another big acquisition if Buffett finds one.


Buffett said that at the end of 2012, Berkshire had USD 47 billion of cash. He likes to always have around USD 20 billion available, so the "excess cash" was roughly USD 27 billion. That would leave something between USD 14 and USD 15 billion for another purchase.


He added, "Of course, the cash builds from month to month, so the gun is always getting reloaded." Berkshire uses the cash "float" generated by premiums for its insurance businesses to make investments and acquisitions.


Buffett said that while Berkshire is putting up half the equity for the deal, 3G will be primarily responsible for running Heinz. "It's their baby from an operational standpoint."


That's fine with him. "It's a great partnership for us. And any partnership where I don't have to do the work is my kind of partnership."


Buffett said he has full confidence in 3G's ability to run Heinz. "I don't think I've ever seen a better developed management group than the one Jorge Paulo Lemann has developed over the years in Brazil. He's an incredible guy."


Asked why he is willing to pay a 20 percent premium for Heinz, Buffett replied, "It's our kind of company. It's got a group of fantastic brands led by ketchup. Referring to his fondness for cheeseburgers, Buffett joked that he had sampled Heinz ketchup "many, many times."

As for the US economy, Buffett said conditions have been "remarkably similar since the late summer of 2009." Berkshire's economy-dependent businesses have "steadily gotten better but not at a fast clip, and that continues to this day."

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