After being noticeably quiet outside of dumping his airline position, Berkshire Hathaway has made their biggest acquisition in the past 4 years, buying Dominion Energy’s natural gas assets for $10 Billion. The deal was made up of $4 Billion in cash, plus Berkshire acquiring all of Dominion’s $5.7 Billion debt.
Natural gas futures recently fell to a 25 year low, and Buffett is clearly exercising his “be greedy when others are fearful” mantra.
When the natural gas industry will rally is debatable, but this is an asset play first and foremost. They’re buying pipelines and storage facilities, Buffett’s kind of stuff.
But with any physical business, there’s limited upside. These “old school” businesses” simply don’t have the scalability of growth sectors like software.
Take 2 ETFs, AMLP (which holds the biggest pipeline producers in the US), and IGV (which holds tech & software businesses like Adobe, Salesforce and Activision Blizzard).
Over the past 3 years, AMLP is down 49.66%, whereas IGV is up more than 120%.
Now the question is, will Buffett’s approach which has brought him so much success in the past, bring him equal success in the future?
I don’t necessarily think it’s a case of old school vs. new school. And “tech” by itself isn’t an industry. It’s a catch-all term for disruptive companies.
For example, there are many clean energy companies aiming to disrupt the stalwarts of the industry like Dominion.
Companies like solar panel manufacturer Daqo New Energy Corp which is up more than 150% in the past year. Whether you feel comfortable investing in Chinese stocks given the current situation is another story.
The big question is whether Buffett’s purchase will show that he’s still got it. Or will this be another Kraft-Heinz case of a failed bet on an old school business?
I’m not going to bet against Buffett, but I’m certainly not betting against tech either.