Warren Buffett might help fund Occidental Petroleum's next deal, according to market speculation.
Occidental is reportedly among the top bidders for CrownRock, a rival energy company.
Here's what's behind the rumors that Berkshire Hathaway could help finance the takeover.
Rumors are swirling that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway could step in to provide financing if Occidental Petroleum acquires CrownRock. Here's the background to the potential deal, and what's fueling the speculation.
Setting the stage
Occidental is among the final bidders in an auction for CrownRock, a rival oil-and-gas company operating in the Permian basin in western Texas, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
The energy group, which counts Berkshire as its largest shareholder with a near-26% stake, has offered to pay more than $10 billion, Reuters reported.
Berkshire first got involved with Occidental by helping to fund its $38 billion takeover of Anadarko Petroleum in 2019. Buffett and his team provided $10 billion in exchange for preferred stock paying a hefty 8% dividend, as well as stock warrants.
They loaded up on Occidental's common stock in early 2022, buying 136 million shares in the space of three weeks. They've gradually grown that position to 228 million shares worth $14 billion since then.
Coming back for more
The fact that Berkshire pitched in during Occidental's Anadarko deal, and is now the fossil-fuel company's largest shareholder, could make it a first port of call for fresh financing.
Bloomberg reported that Occidental's private jet landed in Buffett's hometown of Omaha last week for the second time in November.
CEO Vicki Hollub may have been visiting Buffett to discuss the CrownRock deal and seek funding for it.
Berkshire and Occidental didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider, made outside normal working hours.
Berkshire certainly has money to spare, as it held a record $157 billion of cash, Treasury bills, and other short-term investments at the end of September.
Buffett and his colleagues have battled to find compelling uses for Berkshire's dry powder, based on their public complaints about heady valuations, as well as the company's slower rate of buybacks and muted buying of stocks in recent quarters.
They might welcome the chance to deploy a chunk of their cash pile to help one of their portfolio companies close a big-ticket transaction — at the right terms of course.
Occidental may be fearful of falling behind if it doesn't make a major acquisition, given the consolidation frenzy in the fossil-fuel industry. In recent months, Exxon has struck a $60 billion deal to buy Pioneer Natural Resources, while Berkshire-backed Chevron has agreed to pay $53 billion for Hess.
Occidental might feel ready to pursue another big takeover as it's slashed its debt pile in recent years. However, its stronger balance sheet could allow it to sell stock or issue debt to pay for CrownRock, instead of roping in Berkshire.
Hollub may also be wary of striking another deal with Buffett, given the backlash she received over her last one with him. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has said the terms of the Anadarko financing were "ridiculous," the Berkshire chief "took her to the cleaners," and the negotiations were like "taking candy from a baby" for Buffett.
Buffett is also famously skeptical of acquisitions, and might be against the CrownRock purchase. "We
believe most deals do damage to the shareholders of the acquiring company," he wrote in his 1995 letter to shareholders.
It's still unclear whether Occidental will acquire CrownRock, and if it does, whether it will tap Berkshire for financing. If both things happen, investors will be watching closely to see whether Hollub takes steps to secure a better deal from Buffett than she did last time around.
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