Berkshire Hathaway to buy natural gas assets from Dominion Energy in $10 billion deal

Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) will pay $4 billion in cash for the assets in addition to assuming $5.7 billion in debt from Dominion Energy (D), the power company said Sunday.
Investors had been wondering whether the massive conglomerate owned by Warren Buffett would look to make new investments in light of the downturn in the economy, especially following the company said in May it had $137 billion in cash on its balance sheet.

For Dominion, the deal is one in a series of moves it has made since it transitions away from the gas transmission business to becoming a “pure-play” regulated clean energy utility company. The company, which can be headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest producers and transporters of energy in the nation, providing electricity or natural gas to 7 million clients in 20 states.

“We offer an industry-leading clean-energy profile which includes a comprehensive net zero target by 2050 for both carbon and methane emissions as well as one of the nation’s largest zero-carbon electric generation and storage investment programs,” Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell said in a statement.

“Over the next 15 years we plan to invest up to $55 billion in emissions reduction technologies including zero-carbon generation and energy storage, gas distribution line replacement, and renewable natural gas.”

Also on Sunday, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy (DUK) announced the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline initially announced in 2014 that were set to stretch a huge selection of miles across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The businesses said that despite a recent win for the project in the US Supreme Court, ongoing delays, litigation and an expected increase in costs threatened the economic viability of the project.

The pipeline had faced intense criticism and legal challenges from environmental as well as other groups.

“This is tremendous news for West Virginians, Virginians, and North Carolinians who deserve clean air, safe water and protection from climate change,” Gillian Giannetti, legal counsel with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “As they abandon this dirty pipe dream, Dominion and Duke should now pivot to investing more in energy efficiency, wind and solar — that’s how to provide jobs and a better future for all.”

The acquisition will grow Berkshire Hathaway’s existing energy business, adding significantly more than 7,700 miles of natural gas storage and transmission pipelines, and about 900 billion cubic feet of gas storage. The company currently provides energy service to more than 12 million electric and natural gas clients around the world.

Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to provide “significant protections” for existing employees of the Dominion units being sold and to honor existing union commitments, Farrell said.

As the main deal, Berkshire will acquire full ownership of Dominion Energy Transmission, Questar Pipeline and Carolina Gas Transmission, as well as a 50% operating interest in Iroquois Gas Transmission System and a 25% operating interest in liquid natural gas shipping facility Cove Point.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter with this year, pending regulatory approval.

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