Taking Burlington Northern Railroad Private
Journal of Private Equity, pp. 8-16, Fall 2010
Posted: 29 Aug 2010
Date Written: August 26, 2010
Berkshire Hathaway took Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad private in November of 2009 in a deal valued at $100 per share, which was approximately 31% higher than the share price at the time. Surprisingly, the deal came under immediate criticism from sources relatively close to Warren Buffett including his official biographer and the value investing professor at his alma mater. The criticism centered on the deal’s price and claimed, essentially, that Buffett uncharacteristically paid too much for Burlington. We analyze this deal by valuing Burlington at the time of its acquisition using the modern Graham and Dodd approach. In doing so, we found it involves a situation that many private equity acquirers could face; namely, evaluating the purchase of a profitable and stable firm that presents with seemingly low risk improvements, which command a higher multiple. In our valuation, we identify Burlington’s expected improvements and we assess the risks generated by them in a way that could facilitate post-acquisition value realization, which may prove useful to private equity investors.
Keywords: Private equity, acquisition, valuation
JEL Classification: G23, G34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation