Warren Buffett has frequently touted his Berkshire Hathaway as a home for businesses away from what he said was the debt-fueled, quick-turnover appetite of private equity firms. But the Berkshire name wasn’t enough for Tech Data Corp.
Berkshire made a $140-a-share bid for the distributor of technology products that was topped by a $145 offer from Apollo Global Management Inc., CNBC reported. The offer was another effort by the billionaire investor to put a chunk of his record $128 billion cash pile to use and signals that while Buffett is still on the prowl, he may not be willing to outbid private equity firms flush with money.
Buffett has been stymied on the acquisition front in recent years, causing him to express frustration about the “sky-high” prices for decent businesses. He said earlier this year that he was working on a large deal in the fourth quarter of 2018 but it eventually fell through. The lack of deals has also pressured Buffett’s ability to maintain the stock returns that helped make him famous. Berkshire’s stock is on track for its worst underperformance since 2009.
Berkshire’s interest forced Apollo to raise its bid to one that values Tech Data at about $6 billion, including debt. Tech Data helps bring products to market for firms such as Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc., which is Berkshire’s largest public stock investment as it has a roughly $56 billion stake in the iPhone maker.
“He’s just not going to throw the money out and earn a rate of return below what his minimum target is,” said David Kass, a professor of finance at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “He is Buffett because he’s patient.”
The biggest private-equity firms are on a tear. Apollo’s Leon Black said earlier this month that the firm is on track to almost double its assets under management to $600 billion in five years.
A Tech Data buyout by Berkshire would have pushed the Omaha-based conglomerate further into the technology realm, an area that Buffett avoided for decades. It also would have added another family-built business to Berkshire’s mix of retailers, insurers and energy companies. Edward Raymund founded the company, and his son Steven Raymund ran the firm for about two decades before becoming chairman. Steven Raymund stepped down in 2017.
For Berkshire, the Tech Data saga likely ends here. Buffett isn’t planning to make a higher bid, according to CNBC. His appetite for a large buyout may continue.
“We continue, nevertheless, to hope for an elephant-sized acquisition,” Buffett said in his annual shareholder letter released earlier this year.
The Omaha World-Herald is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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Warren and Susan Buffett at their home at 5202 Underwood Ave. in 1956. The family was “back in Omaha and ready for a picnic,” The World-Herald reported. Susie was 2½, and Howard was 17 months.
From left: Bill Scott, Warren Buffett and John Harding in May 1966.
In 1969, Warren Buffett was a vice president of Omaha's Boys Club. Here, member Spencer McGruder gives the president's gavel to C. Clifton Nelson as Buffett looks on.
Warren Buffett in the mid 1970s.
Warren Buffett and Rose Blumkin announce the partnership between Nebraska Furniture Mart and Berkshire Hathaway in September 1983. They are seated in the carpet department of the Mart.
Warren Buffett at his Kiewit Plaza office in 1982.
Warren Buffett was featured on the cover of Fortune Magazine in April 1988.
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger take questions from shareholders after Berkshire's annual meeting in April 1989.
Warren Buffett checks out the Coca-cola at the Berkshire meeting in April 1989.
Warren Buffett and Dick Denton play bridge in 1990 at the Omaha Bridge Studio.
Leila Buffett, then 88, talks with her son Warren Buffett before the company's annual meeting in 1992. At center is Charles Higgins, president of See's Candy.
Warren Buffett tosses out a pitch before the start of the Omaha Royals' home opener at Rosenblatt Stadium on April 11, 2003. Buffett's jersey was retired before the game.
Warren Buffett drinks a Coke at the First National Bank Building in 1992.
Warren Buffett guest starred on an episode of "All My Children" in 1993. Here he has a scene with Jill Larson as Opal Cortlandt.
Warren Buffett at his Berkshire office at Kiewit Plaza in 1993. He'd placed his hands and feet in cement for a fundraiser for the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Warren Buffett winds up to throw out the first pitch at an Omaha Royals/Buffalo game in April 1995.
Warren Buffett drives himself away from a Berkshire Hathaway meeting at the Holiday Inn in 1996.
A photographer captures Warren Buffett on the sidelines of the Texas/Nebraska game in October 1998 for a Fortune Magazine feature.
Bill Gates says Warren Buffett has basically stuck to eating what he liked when he was 6 years old. He mostly eats hamburgers, ice cream, and Coke. Here, two of the world's richest men are about to get some burgers and fries during a 1995 visit to McDonald's in Hong Kong. Said Gates of Buffett: "Always thrifty, Warren paid with coupons."
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates play a hand of bridge for the press before the start of a bridge tournament at the Omaha Bridge Studio in 2004.
Warren Buffet collects his chips after winning a hand next to Joe Moglia, CEO of TD Ameritrade, during the Omega/Casino Royale Texas Hold 'Em Tournament as part of the Borsheims grand re-opening in 2006.
Warren Buffett eats a Dilly Bar and talks with reporters at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway exhibit during the 2011 Berkshire meeting.
David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., gives Buffett a jacket from his high school alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School, with the "47" on the sleeve for Buffett's graduation class of 1947. Buffett's response: "Go, Tigers!" That's the name of the Wilson High mascot.
Warren Buffett breaks out a giant paddle while playing against Olympian Ariel Hsing during several rounds of ping pong at Regency Court in Omaha on May 6, 2012.
Warren Buffett plays cards during a Berkshire Hathaway event at Regency Court on May 1, 2016.
Warren Buffett takes a swig of a Cherry Coke before participating in the newspaper toss at the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting.
Warren Buffett poses with a large image of himself at UNO's Mammel Hall in 2013.