Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has signed a deal to acquire Germany’s Detlev Louis Motorradvertriebs for a little over €400m ($452 million). The Hamburg-based retailer of motorcycle apparel and accessories has over 70 stores in Germany and Austria.
Warren Buffett cracked the code in Germany
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has a cash pile of $56 billion. The latest acquisition will add to Buffett’s swelling family of businesses. The billionaire investor hopes the retailer’s acquisition will be a “door opener” to more acquisitions in Europe. The retailer will remain a standalone subsidiary of Berkshire overseen by one of Buffett’s investment lieutenants, Ted Weschler.
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Though many American family business owners consider Berkshire as a potential acquirer, Buffett is less well-known outside this country, limiting opportunities to expand a company that has already grown to be the third largest in the U.S. Buffett’s hunt for companies to buy outside the U.S. has so far largely turned out to be fruitless.
Exuding confidence over the latest acquisition, Buffett said, “There is nothing like a deal to get people’s attention. This is smaller than something would normally do, but it is a door opener. I like the fact that we have cracked the code in Germany.”
He told the Financial Times on Friday that Europe is a natural location for what he calls “elephant hunting” – searching for big acquisitions. He further added that the current economic concerns plaguing Europe wouldn’t dissuade him.
U.S. is Warren Buffett’s first love
Expressing confidence in Europe, Buffett said, “Europe has hundreds of millions of people, high incomes, productive people, so it is a great place to be.” However, he added, “The U.S. is my first love, but I see terrific possibilities for us in Europe.”
According to Berkshire’s most recent annual report, the U.S. accounts for 85% of Berkshire’s revenue. To date, Berkshire’s biggest overseas acquisition was the $4 billion purchase of a controlling stake in Iscar Metalworking of Israel in 2006. A Berkshire subsidiary also acquired stake in two divisions of London-listed IMI for $1.1 billion in 2013.
Warren Buffett’s value investing principles have mostly paid off, as he is known for his abilities as a stock picker. However, his Tesco stake has lost over $750 million, as the stock plunged 45% in 2014 following reports of thr overstatement of half the company’s yearly profit to the tune of GBP 250 million. Buffett owned up to the Tesco mistake by admitting, “With Tesco, we definitely made a mistake. I made a mistake on that one more than anybody else made a mistake … That was a huge mistake by me.”
Hinting at a possible acquisition in Europe, Buffett said in an interview on the Fox Business Network earlier this month, “We’re probably going to buy a small business in Europe. But I’d love to buy big ones.”
Berkshire’s latest acquisition gels well with its typical acquisitions. Detlev Louis is a family business whose owner rejected the idea of selling to a private equity firm or to a rival. Ute Louis, who inherited the retailer from her late husband in 2012, contacted Berkshire via a network of intermediaries. Her financial adviser, Zypora Kupferberg, had previously worked with Omaha-based adviser Jim Zipursky, whose father Morley, has known Warren Buffett for decades.