Burlington Northern Santa Fe shareholders have voted to approve the railroad's proposed acquisition by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, with less than two percent of non-Berkshire owned shares voting against the deal.
In a news release issued minutes ago (10:35a ET), Burlington Northern says preliminary results show that "approximately 70 percent of BNSF issued and outstanding shares not owned by Berkshire or its affiliates were voted in favor of the transaction."
That's a few points above the 66-2/3 margin needed for approval.
UPDATE at 1p ET: A Burlington Northern spokesman tells me the latest count shows only 1.84 percent of shares were voted against the Berkshire deal. Roughly 28 percent of shares weren't voted either way. All this is subject to the final count which should be released later today.
Berkshire already owned roughly 22 percent of BNSF's total outstanding shares when the deal agreement was announced last November.
The companies plan to close the deal tomorrow, Friday, February 12.
In the news release, Buffett is quoted as saying, "Tomorrow begins the first century of ownership of BNSF by Berkshire Hathaway.
I’m looking forward to every day of it as our railroad does its part to ensure the future prosperity of the country."
BNSF CEO Matthew Rose's quote is: "We are at an important milestone in our 160-year history. This is a vote of confidence in BNSF and the future of freight rail, and it demonstrates how well our business model is aligned with our new parent company. By providing cost-effective and energy-efficient transportation that also benefits the environment, we are moving the goods that are crucial to consumers and our economy as our nation powers its way out of the recession."
Dow Jones reports that at a 5-minute news conference following the BNSF special meeting, Rose told reporters being part of Buffett's Berkshire will allow the railroad to focus on long-term growth. "We won't be necessarily worried about an individual quarter [because] we will be looking at the longer term horizon... What our team is doing today, really won't be felt in terms of capital spending for really five to 10 years."
Rose adds that he won't miss investors' increasingly short-term focus, a distressing trend he partially blames on "the speed of the news today."
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