Berkshire Wins Canada’s AltaLink Approval With Investment Pledge

Jul 26, 2014 12:01 am ET

July 26 (Bloomberg) -- Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s energy unit won Canadian approval for its planned purchase of SNC- Lavalin Group Inc.’s AltaLink electric transmission business after committing to reinvesting in the country.

The subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire has agreed to maintain AltaLink’s staffing and keep the company’s headquarters and senior management in Alberta, Industry Minister James Moore said in a statement yesterday. Berkshire Hathaway Energy also promised to reinvest all of AltaLink’s earnings back into the company or elsewhere in Canada for at least five years.

“Foreign investment transactions are reviewed on their merits and the overall economic benefit to Canada,” Moore said in the statement. “In making my determination, I carefully considered the plans, undertakings and other information submitted.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government faced calls to block the planned C$3.2 billion ($3 billion) transaction on the grounds that U.S. companies shouldn’t own critical infrastructure in Canada. Nancy Southern, chief executive officer of Atco Ltd., which competes with AltaLink, criticized the deal in May and her company took out newspaper ads to make its case, according to reports in the Edmonton Journal.

Southern declined to comment, Cory Huhn, a spokesperson for the company, said in an e-mail. AltaLink’s assets include 280 substations and about 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) of transmission lines, Berkshire Hathaway Energy said when the deal was announced in May.

Long Term

“BHE will invest in AltaLink, Alberta and Canada for the long term,” the company said in a separate statement. “The announced undertakings are the beginning of that long-term investment.”

Buffett’s company still needs to win approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission to proceed with the acquisition. Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire has been expanding its energy business over the past decade through acquisitions, primarily in the U.S.