In 1965 Warren Buffett’s partnership, then known as the Buffett Partnership, took control of a textile company named Berkshire Hathaway. The company was destined to go out of business, but at the time was selling for below the company’s working capital; a classic cigar butt.
Rather than continue to build the textile company into a profitable business (an almost impossible task) Warren Buffett decided to start buying equities, and eventually entire businesses, through Berkshire Hathaway and start to build what would become one of the largest corporations on earth.
Today, 55 years later, Berkshire Hathaway is widely known as a worldwide conglomerate with dozens of companies, billions in equities, and a CEO approaching his 90th year on earth. While it would prove daunting to summarize each of Berkshire’s 80+ subsidiaries in one article, it may help anyone interested in Berkshire Hathaway to understand their largest subsidiaries as well as their largest equity holdings.
Berkshire, like many other companies, categorizes their areas of operations into distinct segments within their annual report and groups their subsidiaries into the following categories:
Unsurprisingly, Berkshire starts out with an overview of their insurance operations, which as stated in their report brought in total revenue of $61 billion, representing 24% of their total revenues, and includes GEICO, Berkshire Hathaway Primary Group, and Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group.
GEICO, which stands for Government Employees Insurance Company, insures automobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles, as well as homeowners, renters, and life and identity management. GEICO was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 1996 and is currently the second largest auto insurer, after State Farm.
Berkshire Hathaway Primary Group
The Berkshire Hathaway Primary Group consists of multiple different insurance operations which collectively offer commercial motor vehicle insurance, workers compensation, commercial property, healthcare liability, business owners’ insurance, as well as a number of other insurance offerings.
Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group
Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group consists of a range of different reinsurance offerings to both insurance companies as well as other reinsurance groups. Their reinsurance offerings include coverages on property casualty and life and health, most of which is written through Berkshire’s subsidiaries National Indemnity and General Re.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Ten years ago, Berkshire Hathaway acquired Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $34 billion, and in 2020 the company had 40,750 employees, and over $5.4 billion in net earnings. In 2019 the railroads brought in $23 billion in revenue, 35% of which came from consumer products, 27% from industrial products, 21% from agricultural products and 17% from coal, equaling 9.2% of Berkshire’s total revenue.
Utilities and Energy
Berkshire Hathaway Energy
In the late 1990s Berkshire acquired 90.9% of Mid-American Energy, now called Berkshire Hathaway Energy, with Greg Abel and Walter Scott owning the rest. In 2019 Berkshire’s utilities and energy businesses brought in a total of $2.8 billion in net earnings, a 39% increase from their earnings just two years earlier. Today, Berkshire Hathaway Energy comprises of numerous different operations including PacifiCorp, NV Energy, Norther Powergrid, and others, including their recently announced purchase of Dominion Energy’s assets. Berkshire’s utilities and energy operations collectively brought in revenue of $20.1, equal to 8% of Berkshire’s total.
Berkshire Hathaway has a number of different manufacturing companies which together brought in revenue of $62.7 billion in 2019 or 24% of total revenue. Berkshire’s manufacturing businesses are categorized between industrial products, building products, and consumer products.
Precision castparts, which was acquired by Berkshire in 2016, produces high quality metal components that go into complex machinery such as aerospace equipment and power and energy applications.
The Lubrizol corporation was acquired by Berkshire in 2011 and is currently one of the largest manufacturers of specialty chemicals such as additives used for engines and drivelines as well as chemicals used for home care, performance coatings, and skin care.
International Metalworking Companies (IAC)
IMC, otherwise known as ISCAR, was acquired in 2006 and is one of a few large manufacturers of metal cutting tools which are used in a variety of different applications and markets.
Berkshire paid $4.5 billion in 2008 to purchase Marmon holdings which operates in a wide range of different segments including foodservice technologies, water technologies, retail solutions, metal services, plumbing, refrigeration and more.
Berkshire’s other industrial holdings include CTB International Corp, LiquidPower specialty Products, and a number of other, smaller corporations not laid out in their annual report.
Separate from their industrial operations, Berkshire also owns a variety of building operations which they have acquired over the past few decades.
Clayton Homes provides both traditional on-site homes as well as manufactured homes through different regions of the United States. In 2019 alone Clayton Homes delivered a total of 44,600 off-site homes and in addition built 7,369 site-built homes.
Shaw Industries is one of the largest carpet manufacturers in the country and currently designs and manufacturers over 3,700 styles of carpet and wood flooring. Shaw’s revenues are earned by selling carpet to retailers and distributors all across the country. In 2019 Shaw delivered carpet and flooring to over 40,000 retailers and distributors.
Johns Manville was acquired by Berkshire in 2001 for just under $2 billion and offers a range of different building solutions including insulation, roofing, fiber and nonwovens to markets such as aerospace, automotive, appliance, filtration, and more.
MiTek Industries supplies the residential sector with engineered connectors, construction hardware, and computer manufacturing machinery. In addition, they supply commercial businesses in construction products and services such as curtain wall systems, masonry, and light gauge steel framing products.
Benjamin Moore manufactures and retails architectural coatings including paints, stains, and clear finishes. Benjamin Moore products are available at over 3,000 independent retailers.
Acme Brick is a manufacturer and distributor of clay bricks and concrete blocks operating primarily in the south central and south eastern United States.
Berkshire Hathaway owns a number of consumer products companies in a range of different areas such as apparel, shoes, recreational vehicles, and batteries.
Berkshire’s apparel segment consists of Fruit of the Loom, Garan the maker of Garanimals, and the BH Shoe Holdings Group which owns and operates a large number of separate footwear companies.
Apart from apparel, Berkshire owns many other consumer products companies including Forest River, a maker of recreational vehicles; Duracell, the worldwide maker of alkaline batteries; Albecca Inc., which distributes high end frames; and the Richline Group, a manufacturer and distributor of precious and non-precious metals.
Service and Retailing
Berkshire Hathaway’s service and retailing businesses brought in 31.4% of all their revenue with $79.9 billion in total service and retailing revenues, and consisting of the following businesses.
Berkshire’s Mclane company offers wholesale distribution services to some of the most widely known companies in the country such as Walmart, 7-eleven, and Yum brands which collectively make up 43% of Mclanes total revenue.
FlightSafety provides high-tech training to pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians using advanced flight simulator technology. In addition, Flight Safety designs and manufactures flight simulators for their own use as well as to sell to airlines and military organizations.
NetJets operates as a shared ownership program for customers wanting the scale, flexibility, and access to a large fleet of aircraft. Customers acquire a specific percentage of the aircraft allowing them to use it for a set number of hours per year.
TTI is a worldwide distributor of small electronic components, usually ordered in bulk, that are used in a variety of different applications including electronic manufacturing services, design and systems engineers, as well as military and commercial customers.
Included in Berkshire’s services and retailing segment are a group of their smaller operations including XTRA, Dairy Queen, BusinessWire, CORT Business Services, Buffalo News, and BH Media Group.
Berkshire Hathaway Automotive
Their largest retailing business is their Berkshire Hathaway Automotive operation which as of 2019 had 82 dealerships located throughout the United States, particularly in Arizona and Texas.
Home Furnishings Retailing
Berkshire Hathaway’s second largest retailing segments consists of their home furnishing stores which include: Nebraska Furniture Mart, Willey Home Furnishings, Star Furniture Company, and Jordan’s Furniture. Their most notable retailing business, Nebraska Furniture Mart, operates four retail stores with a total of 4.5 million square feet of retail, warehouse and administrative facilities.
Berkshire’s other retailing operations consist of a range of other businesses which include Borsheim Jewelry, Helzberg’s Diamond Inc., Ben Bridge Jeweler, See’s Candies, The Pampered Chef, Oriental Trading Company, and Detlev Louis Motorrad.
In total Berkshire Hathaway’s subsidiaries brought in total revenue of $254 billion and net earnings of $23.9 billion, making it the fourth largest company on the Fortune 500 list in 2019. Along with annual revenue of $254 billion Berkshire currently holds over $100 billion in cash and cash equivalents waiting to be deployed into another monstrous subsidiary.
While the growth of the organization has slowed in recent years, something that was bound to happen, the strength and competitive advantage of Berkshire Hathaway continues to be rivaled by very few.