Monday, December 07, 2009

FTC clears BNSF takeover; Berkshire plans stock split

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The Federal Trade Commission has given Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. antitrust approval for its planned takeover of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.,operator of BNSF Railway. The approval, which was expected, appeared Mondayin a list of antitrust clearances routinely issued by the FTC.

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Berkshire has offered to pay $26.4 billion for the 77.4% of BNSthat it does not now own. Combined with previously owned shares and$10 billion in debt, the takeover is valued at around $44 billion.

Berkshire has also filed a preliminary proxy statement withthe Securities and Exchange Commission giving notice that it has set Jan.20 for a special shareholders meeting in Omaha. Shareholders will beasked to approve a 50-for-1 split of Berkshire's Class B shares. The higher-priced Class A shares will not be affected.

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The split would bring Class B shares down to about $66 eachfrom their current level of around $3,300.

Berkshire's Warren Buffett said earlier in an interview withCNBC that the split will enable "anybody that has as little as oneshare of BNSF to opt for the tax-free exchange ... So those small shareholderscan have exactly the same availability that otherwise would only have beenavailable to a big shareholder."