Berkshire Scraps Questar Pipeline Deal on Antitrust Concerns
(Bloomberg) -- Berkshire Hathaway Inc. terminated its acquisition of some pipeline assets from Dominion Energy Inc., citing concerns that the transaction wouldn’t get regulatory approval.
The announcement comes less than a week after President Joe Biden called for more competition in the U.S. economy and a crackdown on monopolistic practices.
Berkshire’s energy unit won’t now purchase Questar Pipelines, it said Monday in a joint statement with Dominion. Questar was among the natural gas assets Dominion agreed to sell to Berkshire Hathaway Energy a year ago for $4 billion. The rest of that deal was completed in November, representing about 80% of the original transaction value.
“The decision is a result of ongoing uncertainty associated with achieving clearance from the Federal Trade Commission under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976,” the companies said in the statement.
Berkshire Hathaway, led by billionaire Warren Buffett, is betting that natural gas will be around for decades to come, despite moves from the Biden administration to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.
Questar is a 1,888-mile (3,038-kilometer) pipeline network connecting Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. Berkshire Hathaway Energy already controls five other interstate gas pipeline companies with about 21,300 miles of conduits, according to Berkshire Hathaway’s last annual report.
What Bloomberg Intelligence Says
“The cancellation of Dominion Energy’s planned sale of its Questar pipeline to Berkshire Hathaway will slow the heavily leveraged utility company’s pace of balance-sheet improvement. While Dominion did receive cash of $2.7 billion for the sale of its gas-transmission and storage assets to Berkshire in November, the company will now borrow $1.3 billion to repay the deposit it received for the Questar transaction until it finds a new buyer.”
--Jaimin Patel, BI senior credit analyst
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The termination of the Questar deals doesn’t alter Dominion’s earnings guidance. The company plans to enter into a 364-day term loan, and use the proceeds to repay the deposit of about $1.3 billion made by Berkshire Hathaway Energy. The loan is expected to be repaid by year-end 2021, according to the statement.
Dominion said it will seek an alternative buyer for Questar, with a target close of the end of 2021. Dominion executives said there were no U.S. antitrust findings against the agreement to sell Questar to Berkshire, but the process to complete the deal was taking too long, Guggenheim Securities LLC analyst Shahriar Pourreza said in a note to clients.
“No anticompetitive findings and pulling of the process leads us to believe there could be another buyer, with likely better terms, in our view,” Pourreza said in the note.
Dominion shares traded 0.3% lower at $75.34 at 12:30 p.m. in New York. Berkshire Hathaway’s Class B stock was up 0.3% at $281.24.
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