Sunday October 4th, 2015 3:36PM

Buffett's firm dips into $23B Heinz ketchup deal

By Ken Stanford Reporter
NEW YORK (AP) -- Billionaire investor Warren Buffet is dipping into the ketchup business as part of $23.3 billion deal to buy the Heinz ketchup company.

H.J. Heinz Co. says it's the largest deal ever in the food industry. Heinz, based in Pittsburgh, also makes Classico spaghetti sauces, Ore-Ida potatoes and Smart Ones frozen meals.

"It's our kind of company," Buffett said in an interview on CNBC, noting its signature ketchup has been around for more than a century. "I've sampled it many times."

The company was founded by Henry John Heinz and his neighbor L. Clarence Noble in 1869. The pair's first product was grated horseradish, bottled in a clear glass to showcase its purity. The first ketchup was introduced in 1876; the company says it was the country's first commercial grade ketchup.

Last year, Heinz says it had sales of $11.6 billion, with ketchup and sauces accounting for just under half of that. Given the saturated North American market, the company has increasingly looked overseas for growth. In 2013, emerging markets are expected to account for a quarter of the company's sales.

Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, the investment firm which bought Burger King in 2010, say Heinz will remain headquartered in Pittsburgh. Heinz CEO William Johnson said in a statement that the company "will have an opportunity to drive further growth" as a private enterprise.

Representatives for Heinz and the investment group weren't able to immediately provide any further details on the deal, including whether there would be any management changes or layoffs.

Buffett did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press on Thursday. But he has recently said that he's been hunting for elephant-sized deals and at the end of September he had $47.8 billion cash on hand to finance any investments.

Generally, Buffett prefers to buy entire companies for his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate and then allow the businesses to continue operating much the way they were before. Berkshire has also helped finance deals before - most recently during the financial crisis of 2008, when he made lucrative deals for Berkshire when few other companies had cash.

Berkshire's biggest acquisition ever was its $26.3 billion purchase of BNSF railroad in 2010. Before that, it was the $16 billion stock purchase of reinsurance giant General Re in 1998.

Heinz shareholders will receive $72.50 in cash for each share of common stock they own. The transaction value includes the assumption of Heinz's debt. Based on Heinz's number of shares outstanding, the deal is worth $23.3 billion excluding debt.

The per-share price for the deal represents a 20 percent premium to Heinz's closing price of $60.48 on Wednesday. Heinz said the deal was unanimously approved by its board. Buffett said on CNBC that Berkshire is putting $12 billion to $13 billion into the deal. But he noted that Berkshire will still have room to make more acquisitions because its businesses continually replenish its cash supply.

"Anytime we see a deal is attractive and it's our kind of business and we've got the money, I'm ready to go," Buffett said.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

Shares of Heinz were up nearly 20 percent at $72.45.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 1 week ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 1 week ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 1 week ago )