Buffett: I Was Wrong on Anheuser-Busch

Includes: AHBIF, BRK.A, BRK.B
by: Nadav Manham

Buffett was on CNBC Friday morning.  Here's a transcript/video.  I noted the following exchange regarding Anheuser-Busch:

QUICK: OK. Let's talk about your most recent disclosures for some of your holdings. When we saw the last numbers, your shares in Anheuser-Busch, a lot of people were surprised to see that you had gotten out of those shares before a deal went through with InBev.

BUFFETT: That's right. I sold about 60 percent of them in the second quarter.


BUFFETT: Well, I wasn't--it was an evaluation of whether I thought the deal would go through and the desire to sell at least some of the shares. I mean, Anheuser-Busch did not want the deal to go through and they hired investment bankers, very expensive. They spent $72 million with two investment banking firms. And believe me, most of that was spent with the idea of trying to keep InBev away. So who knew how it was going to come out? And InBev persevered, they raised their price and on the remaining shares we'll do somewhat better; although there's still a time factor and we've used the money for other things. But in retrospect, I was wrong to decide to partially sell the holdings.

I was a little surprised by this.  Leaving aside the timing of the deal and Berkshire's alternative uses of capital, I thought it was highly likely InBev would succeed in winning BUD, given the former's deal skills and the latter's relative lack of defenses.  I wonder why Buffett thought differently.