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Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett has a thing for Texas.
The Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate's $9 billion all-cash deal for electricity transmission company Oncor is just the latest bet by the billionaire on the Lone Star State, something it was careful to mention in its press release Friday.
"Oncor is an excellent fit for Berkshire Hathaway, and we are pleased to make another long-term investment in Texas," Buffett said in the statement. "When we invest in Texas, we invest big!" (exclamation point included)
Berkshire owns nearly a dozen other companies headquartered in the state as the result of acquisitions over the years. Some of them are well-known names, such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the Fort Worth company Berkshire assumed total ownership of in 2010.
Others aren't exactly household names, like LiquidPower Specialty Products, a Houston company that makes the chemical agents that improve the operations of energy pipelines, or McLane, a Temple-based food distribution business acquired from Wal-Mart in 2003.
When Berkshire acquired the rest of BNSF it didn't already own, for a total investment of $34 billion, Buffett said, "It's an all-in wager on the economic future of the United States. I love these bets."
It could also be a bet on the Texas economy. The state added jobs at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in May, the latest figures available on the Dallas Fed's website, and growth of 2.5 percent year to date outpaced the nation's 1.3 percent increase. The Dallas Fed says economic growth is accelerating in the state, with job growth forecast to be 2.7 percent this year, more than the 2.1 percent long-term average.
Berkshire might have some company in the Oncor deal. Activist hedge fund Elliott Management, run by billionaire Paul Singer, is mulling its own bid for the company, according to a Reuters report on Friday afternoon. Elliott is already a major creditor of Energy Future Holdings, the owner of most of Oncor. An Elliott spokesman wasn't immediately available to comment on the report.
Among Berkshire's other Texas holdings are Acme Brick and Justin Brands, a brickmaker and cowboy boot purveyor, respectively, both based in Fort Worth (they were once part of the same company acquired by Berkshire in 2000); Allie Beth Allman & Associates, a Dallas luxury real estate firm; and Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, the Dallas-based product of a 2014 deal for the largest private auto dealership once based in Phoenix.
Speaking of which, local newspapers were aflutter this spring when Buffett paid a visit to state lawmakers about a state law that made it tough for Berkshire's dealerships to conduct business there. The so-called Buffett Bill, seeking an exemption for Berkshire to that law, quickly gained steam in the Capitol but ultimately died, according to local accounts.