Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Switches to Berkshire Brand

Apr 30, 2014 3:39 pm ET

(Updates with Berkshire’s stake in the seventh paragraph.)

April 30 (Bloomberg) -- MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. has changed its name to Berkshire Hathaway Energy, linking its brand with that of the parent company led by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

“Our new name reflects the benefits we gain from Berkshire Hathaway’s ownership, particularly our ability to reinvest in our businesses and take a long-term view of our customers’ needs,” Greg Abel, chief executive officer of the energy business, said in a statement today.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has long counted recognizable consumer brands among its portfolio, including Dairy Queen ice cream, See’s Candies and the Geico auto insurer. He’s increasingly let deputies adopt the name of the holding company, which traces its roots to a textile manufacturer in New England. A real estate business owned by Abel’s unit announced a venture in 2012 to franchise the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices name to brokerages.

“He has seen a very positive impact from branding the real estate business, so it makes sense to use it for businesses that don’t have the kind of inherent brand name that Geico or See’s have,” said Jeff Matthews, a Berkshire investor and author of books about the company. “MidAmerican doesn’t mean much, either to its customers or potential acquisition candidates, so making it Berkshire Hathaway Energy makes total sense.”

Acquisition Strategy

Abel has been expanding his business through acquisitions including the $5.6 billion purchase last year of NV Energy, Nevada’s largest electric utility. His Des Moines, Iowa-based business has retained its earnings, without paying a dividend to Berkshire. That has allowed Abel to boost capital spending and pursue deals.

NV Energy “will not be MidAmerican’s last major acquisition,” Buffett, 83, wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders posted on the company’s website March 1.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy has $70 billion in assets and more than 8.4 million customers. Its subsidiaries, such as Kern River and PacifiCorp, will retain their names and continue to be run locally, according to today’s statement. Berkshire owns about 90 percent of MidAmerican.

Forest River, the maker of recreational vehicles, is among the other subsidiaries that use the Omaha, Nebraska-based parent company’s name. Its offerings include Berkshire motorhomes. The Fruit of the Loom business, at the May 3 annual Berkshire meeting in Omaha, will be selling “Berky” boxer shorts, featuring pictures and the names of Buffett and Vice Chairman Charles Munger.

--With assistance from Zachary Tracer in New York.