In its first deal since the economic downturn caused by coronavirus, Berkshire Hathaway is purchasing natural gas transmission and storage assets from Dominion Energy in a deal worth nearly $10 billion.
Investors had been wondering whether the massive conglomerate owned by Warren Buffett would look to make new investments in light of the economic downturn, especially after the company said in May it had $137 billion in cash on its balance sheet.
For Dominion, the deal is one in a series of moves it has made as it transitions away from the gas transmission business to becoming a “pure-play” regulated clean energy utility company. The company, which is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest producers and transporters of energy in the nation, providing electricity or natural gas to 7 million customers in 20 states.
“We offer an industry-leading clean-energy profile which includes a comprehensive net zero target by 2050 for both carbon and methane emissions as well as one of the nation’s largest zero-carbon electric generation and storage investment programs,” Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell said in a statement.
“Over the next 15 years we plan to invest up to $55 billion in emissions reduction technologies including zero-carbon generation and energy storage, gas distribution line replacement, and renewable natural gas.”
Also on Sunday, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy (DUK) announced the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline initially announced in 2014 that had been set to stretch hundreds of miles across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The companies said that despite a recent win for the project in the US Supreme Court, ongoing delays, litigation and an expected increase in costs threatened the economic viability of the project.
The pipeline had faced intense criticism and legal challenges from environmental and other groups.
“This is tremendous news for West Virginians, Virginians, and North Carolinians who deserve clean air, safe water and protection from climate change,” Gillian Giannetti, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “As they abandon this dirty pipe dream, Dominion and Duke should now pivot to investing more in energy efficiency, wind and solar — that’s how to provide jobs and a better future for all.”
The acquisition will grow Berkshire Hathaway’s existing energy business, adding more than 7,700 miles of natural gas storage and transmission pipelines, and about 900 billion cubic feet of gas storage. The company currently provides energy service to more than 12 million electric and natural gas customers around the world.
Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to provide “significant protections” for existing employees of the Dominion units being sold and to honor existing union commitments, Farrell said.
As part of the deal, Berkshire will acquire full ownership of Dominion Energy Transmission, Questar Pipeline and Carolina Gas Transmission, as well as a 50% operating interest in Iroquois Gas Transmission System and a 25% operating interest in liquid natural gas shipping facility Cove Point.
The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, pending regulatory approval.