Warren Buffett's Canadian Oil Sands Tour Has Omaha Connection

As oil sand stocks continue to rally in the wake of Monday's visit by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to northeastern Alberta, we may have a "clue" to an Omaha connection for the tour.

Canada's national newspaper The Globe and Mail reports today that the trip was arranged by Kiewit Corp., an engineering firm based in Omaha that is a contractor on Canadian Natural Resource's Horizon project.

Buffett and Gates toured that facility by helicopter and then looked at some other projects in the area from the air, according to the Globe, which also says the trip was supposed to be "top-secret."

After picking up 7% yesterday, Canadian Natural is up another 3% to $85.42 in New York Thursday. Current real-time price:

Long-time Buffett friend and former Kiewit CEO Walter Scott, Jr.
Long-time Buffett friend and former Kiewit CEO Walter Scott, Jr.

Long-time Buffett friend and high-school classmate Walter Scott, Jr. is a former CEO of Kiewit and currently sits on the boards of that company, Berkshire Hathaway and Berkshire subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings. Along with Buffett, he also holds a stake in Omaha's minor league baseball team.

The Globe article stays with the interpretation that while Buffett might be curious about oil sands, it would be very unusual for him to make an investment there. It cites the absence of a competitive "moat" for commodity producers and quotes Buffett-watcher Tony Arrell of Burgundy Asset Management as saying, "I wouldn't have any idea [why he made the trip], but I can hardly think of a time that he has invested in a big, capital-intensive thing."

Current Berkshire stock prices:

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