- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway paid $8.2 billion to acquire Pilot Travel Centers in January.
- The investor’s company raised its stake in the truck-stop chain from 38.6% to 80%.
- Pilot has partnered with GM and Volvo to develop charging networks for electric vehicles.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway quietly made a multibillion-dollar acquisition in January, the company’s annual report shows. The deal promises to boost its exposure to the booming electric-vehicle industry.
The famed investor’s conglomerate purchased 41.4% of Pilot Travel Centers for about $8.2 billion on January 31. The transaction lifted Berkshire’s ownership of the business to 80%, as it originally bought a 38.6% stake in 2017.
Pilot is the largest operator of travel centers in North America, with more than 650 locations. Under the Pilot Flying J, Pilot Travel Centers, and Mr. Fuel brands, it offers gas, restrooms, parking, fast-food restaurants, and amenities such as laundry and showers to truck drivers and other motorists.
The truck-stop group grew its revenues from $20 billion in 2017 to $45 billion in 2021, and now generates more than $1 billion in yearly pre-tax earnings.
Moreover, Pilot partnered with General Motors last year to establish a national network of 2,000 EV charging stations by 2026. It also intends to work with Volvo to develop a similar network for battery-powered trucks. Berkshire’s controlling stake in the company should mean it benefits from those infrastructure buildouts.
Berkshire already owns a significant stake in BYD, a Chinese EV company and key rival to Elon Musk’s Tesla. However, it has been cashing out profits from the lucrative wager in recent months.
Buffett built Berkshire into one of the world’s biggest companies by investing in public companies such as Apple and Coca-Cola, and acquiring scores of businesses including Geico and Duracell.
However, Buffett and his team have struggled to find bargains in recent years, as stocks have soared and both private equity firms and special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have bid up the price of acquisitions.
Their luck seemed to change last year. Berkshire, a net seller of stocks in both 2020 and 2021, bought a net $34 billion of stocks in 2022. It also acquired insurer Alleghany for about $12 billion, and repurchased $8 billion worth of Berkshire shares.
“Berkshire put over $53 billion to work in 2022, more than during the prior two years combined,” James Shanahan, a senior equity research analyst at Edward Jones, told Insider in an email.
“Q1 2023 is off to a strong start,” he added, pointing to Berkshire acquiring Pilot and spending about $700 million on buybacks in the first six weeks of this year.