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Berkshire buying Duracell from P&G in US$3b deal

Published:Friday | November 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
This Thursday, November 13, 2014 photo shows Duracell batteries in Richardson, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Berkshire buying Duracell from P&G in US$3b deal

Warren Buffett?s Berkshire Hathaway is buying the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble Company in a deal valued at approximately US$3 billion.

P&G, the world?s biggest consumer products maker, had announced last month that it wanted to make Duracell a stand-alone company. P&G, which acquired Duracell in 2005, said at the time that it preferred a spinoff of Duracell, but that it was considering a sale or other options.

The sale of Duracell to Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc turned out to be slightly different from P&G?s initial plans.

P&G will receive shares of its own stock that are currently held by Berkshire Hathaway. Those shares are currently valued at about US$4.7 billion. Offsetting part of that price, P&G will contribute about US$1.7 billion to the Duracell business before the deal closes.

?I have always been impressed by Duracell, as a consumer and as a long-term investor in P&G and Gillette,? Buffett said in a statement on Thursday.

P&G, whose products include Tide detergent and Pampers diapers, has been trimming its product line-up to focus on its top performers. After it finishes jettisoning more than half its brands around the globe over the next year or two, P&G has said that it will be left with about 70 to 80 brands.

Berkshire has been a significant P&G shareholder since the consumer products firm acquired Gillette in 2005, but the Duracell acquisition will use nearly all of Berkshire?s 52.48 million shares.

Buffett has estimated that Berkshire?s P&G stake cost it roughly US$336 million.

Buffett is always looking for acquisitions to help his conglomerate grow, but this stock deal won?t use up any of the US$62.4 billion cash Berkshire held at the end of the third quarter. He favours easy-to-understand businesses that have a strong competitive advantage.

Berkshire already owns a number of well-known consumer brands in its portfolio of more than 80 businesses, including Fruit of the Loom, Geico insurance, Helzberg Diamonds and half of the H.J. Heinz Co.

Author and investor Jeff Matthews, who wrote Warren Buffett?s Successor: Who It Is and Why It Matters, said the deal is a tax-efficient way for Berkshire to sell its P&G stock and avoid capital-gains taxes, but he?s not a big fan of Duracell because of the overall shift to rechargeable batteries.

?I?d rather have the Procter & Gamble shares,? Matthews said. ?I think Procter & Gamble will get more valuable over time, and Duracell will get less valuable.?

But Andy Kilpatrick, author of Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett, said it appears like a brilliant deal because Berkshire is getting Duracell for less than half what Gillette paid for it in 1996 and saving on taxes.

?It is a brand name and he?s getting it cheap,? Kilpatrick said. ?And it?s a good way to get out of P&G stock.?

Cincinnati-based P&G said it will take a charge of about 28 cents per share in its current quarter related to the Duracell deal. The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2015.

Shares of P&G fell 37 cents to US$89.11 in midday trading on Thursday. Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares rose 48 cents to US$146.

? AP