Buffett teams up with 3G Capital to buy Heinz in $28bn deal

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital will buy ketchup and baby food maker HJ Heinz Co for $23.2bn in cash, a deal that combines 3G’s ambitions in the food industry with Buffett’s hunt for growth.

Including debt assumption, Heinz valued the transaction, which it called the largest in its industry’s history, at $28bn. Berkshire and 3G will pay $72.50 per share, a 19 per cent premium to the stock’s all-time high.

For Buffett, the deal represents an unusual teaming with private equity for a major acquisition because historically, his purchases have been outright his own. He said that 3G approached him with the idea in December and that it was “my kind of deal”.

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He has been on the hunt for a major purchase worth in the neighbourhood of $20n or more. Buffett said yesterday that Berkshire’s piece of the Heinz purchase was $12bn to $13bn cash, for a mix of common and preferred equity.

The last time Buffett did a deal like this was in 2008, when Berkshire helped fund Mars’ $23bn purchase of Wrigley.

For 3G, a little-known firm with Brazilian roots, the buy is something of a natural complement to its investment in fast-food chain Burger King, which it acquired in late 2010 and in which it still holds a major stake.

3G will be Heinz’s operator after the deal closes, and the company will remain headquartered in Pittsburgh. Heinz said the transaction would be financed with cash from Berkshire and 3G, debt rollover and debt financing from JP Morgan and Wells Fargo.

Buffett said that Berkshire and 3G would be equal equity partners.