Southwest shares gain after Buffett takeover rumor

Key Points
  • Southwest shares rise about 4 percent after rumor circulates that Warren Buffett is considering a takeover bid for the airline.
  • Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is one of Southwest's biggest shareholders.
  • The airline acknowledges the rumor but declines to comment.
A Southwest Airlines jet leaves Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines shares surged more than 4 percent on Thursday after a rumor circulated on Twitter that billionaire investor Warren Buffett wants to acquire the remaining shares of the low-cost airline.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is already Southwest's second-largest shareholder and had an 8.7 percent stake worth more than $2.2 billion, according to Berkshire's annual letter released last week. Berkshire Hathaway is also one of the largest shareholders in Southwest's competitors Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines.

"$LUV talk Berkshire Hathaway seeking to acquire remaining shares of Southwest" at $75 a share, said a tweet from Twitter user, a trading portal. It called the talk "unconfirmed." Southwest shares closed at $56.04 on Thursday.

Southwest acknowledged the rumor but declined to comment.

Southwest Airlines cuts forecast due to government shutdown
Southwest Airlines cuts forecast due to government shutdown

"There has been speculation circulating that Warren Buffett might be looking to acquire an airline for some time, and that Southwest might be a good fit," Southwest said in a statement. "As a policy, we do not comment on speculations but appreciate Berkshire's continued support of Southwest Airlines."

Berkshire Hathaway did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A year ago, Buffett, Berkshire's CEO, told CNBC that he "wouldn't rule out owning an entire airline," sparking some speculation that Dallas-based Southwest could be the one as Buffett hunts for a large deal.

The rumor came a day after Southwest announced it finally received federal government approvals needed to fly to Hawaii.

Hawaii will make up half of Southwest's planned 5 percent increase in flying this year, the airline said last month.

Southwest first announced its plan to serve Hawaii in October 2017 and has been waiting for a green light from the Federal Aviation Administration, a process that was delayed in the 35-day partial government shutdown that furloughed safety inspectors at the agency.