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投资理财

收购被截胡,巴菲特也有失算时

Bloomberg 2017年08月27日

巴菲特的投资传奇一直为人津津乐道,但是今年对于股神来说却是流年不利的一年。

今年巴菲特本想以90亿美元的价格收购德州的 Oncor输电公司,然而上周亿万富翁保罗·辛格的艾略特管理公司凭空横插了一杠子,收购了该公司的一部分无担保债务。此举为桑普拉能源公司的截胡创造了窗口期,最终使桑普拉能源抢走了煮熟的鸭子。

在此六个月前,巴菲特还有一笔几十亿美元的收购案最终也泡了汤。

今年2月,巴菲特的伯克希尔哈撒公司计划出资150亿美元,帮助卡夫亨氏公司收购联合利华。不过联合利华拒绝了这笔交铁,卡夫亨氏也很快收回了邀约。

在这么短的时间内,两笔如此高调的收购案都以失败告终,这对于巴菲特是非常少见的。过去几十年里,巴菲特就靠着一次次精明的收购打造了伯克希尔哈撒韦的商业帝国。虽然他也发动过很多次无疾而终的收购,但像如此受公众关注的情况却不多见。

据知情人士透露,艾略特公司从富达投资集团手中收购了Oncor输电公司的母公司——能源未来中间控股公司价值6000万美元的杠杆债务,以一招“四两拨千斤”,便将巴菲特的邀约变成了废纸。在收购了这些债务后,艾略特公司和另一个持异议债权人在各个债务类别上都成了能源未来公司的主要债权人,破产法庭几乎铁定会否决巴菲特的收购邀约。由于此事的保密性,该知情人士要求不透露其姓名。

据该知情人士称,目前还不知道伯克希尔哈撒韦的能源部门为何没有从富达手中收购这笔债务,因为这样做或许可以提高它的中标机会。在通常情况下,破产法庭只会要求一组无担保债权人支持收购。

伯克希尔哈撒韦公司的能源部门本周一表示,能源未来公司已经终止了其收购邀约,此后伯克希尔公司便拒绝就此事发表评论。巴菲特本人也没有回应我们的评论请求。

桑普拉公司首席执行官迪波拉·里德表示,与巴菲特对决并不是公司的目标。

“当时,伯克希尔的交易方案貌似不会获得债权人的支持,而随后债权人的交易方案似乎也不会获得监管机构的支持,我们觉得机会来了,我们认为能通过一次交易,同时满足债权人和监管机构的要求。”

CFRA公司的证券分析师凯茜·赛弗特指出,伯克希尔公司今年错失两次投资良机,使很多人“开始质疑该公司的‘君子协定’式的收购战略的效果。”

赛弗特表示,对于一些比较有难度的交易,“它越来越难获得以往那样的声誉了,除非它很快做出一些变化。”

投资这笔债务则是艾略特公司走出的一步妙棋,如果桑普拉公司94.5亿美元的邀约获得监管机构批准,那么艾略特公司的投资收益将高达45%到50%。如果是巴菲特赢了,艾略特公司的投资收益将只有18%。

在这场局中,伯克希尔忙活了半天,只是跟艾略特公司一起,给桑普拉公司收购Oncor提供了一张路线图。

伯克希尔公司同意了47项监管承诺,这些承诺旨在帮助它赢得法庭的批准,并保护Oncor免受不必要的风险,包括对中间公司没有债务。该公司在周五的一份声明中表示,这些承诺已经解决了涉及Oncor的所有问题。

据该知情人士称,桑普拉公司愿意继续遵守这些承诺,这一表态也赢得了这笔交易的一些利害关系人和德州公共事业委员会内部人员的支持。

该知情人士称,艾略特公司还提出一个93亿美元的基准估值,并表示该公司正在想方设法瞄准这个价位筹集资金。也就是说,如果有人的出价高于这个门槛,该公司将很难表示反对。

一名消息人士指出,艾略特在破产领域有多年摸爬滚打的经验,这也是它相对巴菲特的优势之一。

该消息人士称,伯克希尔公司可能是觉得自己的提议已经相当靠谱了,而且也获得了足够的支持,获得破产法庭的批准应该不成问题。没想到犯了轻敌的大忌,艾略特公司一买下富达持有的债务,伯克希尔就立时被淘汰出局了。

这两起失败的案例都表明,巴菲特对自己的原则已经坚持到了偏执的地步。他的“不妥协”原则使联合利华的收购案打了水漂。另外巴菲特长期以来一直坚称他对竞价收购没兴趣,这也解释了他为什么不愿加价收购Oncor。

近两年的“交易荒”对伯克希尔公司的影响也是多方面的。该公司最近一笔巨额交易,是2005年对美国精密机件公司的收购,收购价超过了350亿美元。伯克希尔公司从不分红,也很少进行股票回购,所以由于连续几次大收购告吹,各家子公司(包括盖可保险、BNSF铁路等等)贡献的现金越来越多,巴菲特手里也积攒了大笔现金没地方花。截止到今年6月底,囤积在伯克希尔公司的现金已达近1000亿美元。

不过巴菲特还是可以获得一份安慰奖的。据巴克莱银行的分析师杰伊·盖尔布估计,伯克希尔公司可能会获得2.7亿美元的分手费,巴菲特手头上也又多了一笔花不出去的钱。

巴菲特近来一直在寻找值得投资的地方。比如去年,他斥资数十亿美元大肆收购美国四大航空公司以及苹果的股票。今年6月,伯克希尔公司又进行了两笔规模较小的证券投资。其中一笔是房地产信托投资,另一笔则投给了一家陷入困境的加拿大按揭贷款商——家庭资本集团。

虽然伯克希尔的这几笔投资回报率大都不错,但巴菲特一直都在说,伯克希尔的真正价值是通过购买完整的企业建立的。

今年五月,在伯克希尔公司的年会上,巴菲特本人也向股东表示:“我不可能在三年后回到这里时,告诉你们我们手头上还有1500亿美元现金没有投资。”(财富中文网)

译者:贾政景

Buffett’s $9 billion bid to acquire Oncor Electric Delivery Co. started to unravel last week after Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. outmaneuvered the Oracle of Omaha by acquiring a small parcel of unsecured debt. That opened a window for Sempra Energy to swoop in and strike a deal to acquire the Texas utility.

The loss comes six months after another multibillion-dollar Buffett pursuit hit the skids.

In February, his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. committed $15 billion to help Kraft Heinz Co. in a proposed buyout of Unilever. The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant rejected the approach, and the offer was quickly pulled.

The collapse of two high-profile deals in such a short time frame is a rarity for Buffett, who has spent decades building Berkshire into a sprawling conglomerate through shrewd takeovers. While he’s made many offers that went nowhere, it’s less common for any such losses to play out in public.

Elliott’s purchase from Fidelity Investments of $60 million worth of leveraged notes in Oncor’s parent, Energy Future Intermediate Holding Co., was all it needed to do to block Buffett’s bid, according to people familiar with the matter. Buying the notes allowed the activist investor and another dissenting creditor to own the majority of all classes of impaired debt in the company, all but assuring that a bankruptcy judge would reject Buffett’s bid, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

It’s unclear why Berkshire’s energy unit didn’t buy the debt from Fidelity, which would have probably improved its chances, the people said. Typically, bankruptcy courts only require one group of unsecured creditors to support a takeover bid.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy declined to comment on its handling of the deal after saying in a statement Monday that Energy Future had terminated the offer. Buffett didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Squaring off against Buffett wasn’t a factor for Sempra, said Chief Executive Officer Debra Reed.

“When the Berkshire deal looked like it was not going to get creditor support and then the creditor deal looked like it was not going to get regulatory support,” Reed said, “we saw an opportunity to come in with a transaction that we thought would meet the needs of both the creditors and the regulators.”

Berkshire’s loss of two big opportunities this year “calls into question the effectiveness of their gentleman’s agreement acquisition strategy,” said Cathy Seifert, an equity analyst at CFRA Research who has a hold on Berkshire.

“It’s going to get tougher and tougher to earn the reputation” for savvy dealmaking “unless something in this trajectory changes pretty quickly,” Seifert said.

Buying the debt was an elegant solution for Elliott, which will get 45 cents to 50 cents on the dollar for its investment if Sempra’s $9.45 billion bid wins approval. That compares to the 18 cents that Elliott would have gotten from Buffett.

Berkshire, along with Elliott, ended up providing a road map for Sempra to acquire Oncor.

Berkshire agreed to 47 regulatory commitments that were aimed at helping it win court approval and protect Oncor from unnecessary risk, including having no debt at the intermediate companies. It said in a statement Friday that those commitments had resolved all issues involving Oncor.

Sempra is comfortable upholding those commitments, which won over some stakeholders and the staff at the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the people said.

Elliott provided a benchmark when it said it was trying to drum up the finances for its own bid valued at $9.3 billion, meaning it would be hard for the New York hedge fund to oppose a bid higher than that threshold, the people said.

One of the people said it was Elliott’s experience in the rough and tumble bankruptcy space that gave it an edge over Buffett.

Berkshire felt its own proposal was sufficiently formed and had the support needed to win approval from the bankruptcy judge, the people said. Once Elliott bought the Fidelity debt, Berkshire was blocked though, they said.

Both episodes point to how staunchly the billionaire sticks to his principles. His pledge to never go where he isn’t wanted scuttled the Unilever deal. He’s long said he has no interest in auctions, which could have contributed to his willingness to be outbid for Oncor.

Even so, the deal drought has bigger implications for Berkshire, whose last mega deal was its 2015 agreement to the buy Precision Castparts Corp. for more than $35 billion. The company doesn’t pay a dividend and rarely buys back its own stock, so failing to consummate a few major transactions adds to the cash that keeps piling up from dozens of subsidiaries including insurer Geico and BNSF Railway. At the end of June, Berkshire had just shy of $100 billion.

Buffett could get a consolation prize. Barclays Plc analyst Jay Gelb estimated that Berkshire could get an $270 million breakup fee, which would add to the company’s cash pile.

Buffett has been finding a few places to invest. He spent billions amassing shares in the four largest U.S. airlines and Apple Inc. last year. In June, Berkshire made two smaller equity investments. One was a stake in a real estate investment trust and the other propped up Home Capital Group Inc., an embattled Canadian mortgage lender.

While most of those investments have fared well, Buffett has long said that the real value at Berkshire will be created from buying whole businesses.

As Buffett himself told shareholders in May at Berkshire’s annual meeting, “There’s no way I can come back here three years from now and tell you that we hold $150 billion or so in cash.”

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