Friday, November 6, 2009

Buffett Buys BNSF

Financial emperor Warren Buffett has been buying up BNSF shares for years, but even in the first 48 hours since the announcement, this much is known about Berkshire Hathaway's $34 Billion purchase: Buffett is betting the farm on American rail.

Buffett believes that American coal will continue to produce in the long term, carried by Rio Grande-like unit trains from western sources such as the Wyoming and Colorado coal fields. He also believes that the American economy will rebound, once again driving demand for cheap and easy imports from China and the Pacific Rim to Wal-Mart and Sears aboard BNSF container trains from Washington and California ports.

Little if any impact is expected at the operations level. In a letter to BNSFs customers, John Lanigan stated,
You will not see any changes in the weeks and months ahead. Our leadership will remain in place and focused on providing value to our customers.
BNSFs Ft. Worth, Texas-based operations will remain in Ft. Worth. Largely, this looks like a move that's behind the scenes. The funny thing about those behind-the-scenes moves, however, is that they have an uncanny way of driving long-term strategies. Is this the anticipated move that sets the "fabled" next round of mergers in action that pairs BNSF and UP with their East Coast counterparts CSX and NS? What would this mean for the plans of high speed rail? If mergers happen, they will happen in the next 12 months. That's just a hunch based off the last round in 1995-96 where Conrail was divided up between CSX and NS and BN and Santa Fe merged, forcing UP to buy Southern Pacific from Colorado's Phil Anschutz.

No comments: