Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Buffett proposed to invest $3bn in Uber but talks failed

The bid was made earlier this year with Berkshire Hathaway due to provide a convertible loan to the ride-hailing company

Mr Buffett told CNBC that "some of the reported details are not correct" but confirmed that Berkshire did have talks with Uber. Yuri Gripas / AFP 
Mr Buffett told CNBC that "some of the reported details are not correct" but confirmed that Berkshire did have talks with Uber. Yuri Gripas / AFP 

Billionaire Warren Buffett had proposed to invest $3 billion in Uber Technologies earlier this year, but the talks failed following disagreements over the deal's terms, according to Bloomberg, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Mr Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway would have provided a convertible loan to Uber that would have protected his investment should the Silicon Valley ride-hailing company hit financial crisis, the report said.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi proposed decreasing the size of the deal to $2bn, giving Mr Buffett a smaller share of the company. The deal fell through after the two sides could not agree on terms, Bloomberg reported.

Mr Buffett told CNBC that "some of the reported details are not correct" but confirmed that Berkshire had talks with Uber.

Mr Khosrowshahi also confirmed in an interview with CNBC that Uber had discussions with Mr Buffett, but said that he did not think "the reporting was entirely accurate".

Asked about whether the talks could resume, Mr Khosrowshahi said it was "always possible" and he would welcome any kind of dialogue with Mr Buffett.

A representative for Mr Buffett did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An Uber spokesman declined to comment.


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Mr Buffett, who had long shunned the technology sector, has become a top shareholder of Apple, and expressed regret about not investing in Alphabet's Google and Amazon.com before they became huge.

Berkshire has $108.6bn in cash and equivalents as of the end of March that it is eager to invest.

Berkshire said much of the $14.8bn it invested in equities during the first quarter went to Apple, and said it owned 239.6 million shares worth more than $40bn.

That said, Mr Buffett may view Apple and Uber less as technology companies than strong brands with loyal customers. Berkshire has more than 90 operating units including the BNSF railroad, Geico auto insurance, Dairy Queen ice cream, Fruit of the Loom underwear, See's Candies and a variety of industrial, utility and chemical operations.

Larger stock investments are normally made by Mr Buffett, but he has handed over more responsibility to his investment deputies Todd Combs and Ted Weschler in recent years.

Mr Khosrowshahi has since his August appointment been trying to improve the image of Uber, which has been rocked by management turmoil and tarnished by revelations about an alleged sexist workplace culture tolerant of chauvinism. The Uber board of directors has committed to a 2019 initial public offering, and Mr Khosrowshahi has not strayed from that timeline.

An investment by Mr Buffett would probably have been viewed as a stamp of approval.

In the oast decade, Mr Buffett has invested billions of Berkshire dollars to support companies seeking a pick-me-up, including investments in Goldman Sachs Group, General Electric and Bank of America during or in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Many of these have carried favourable terms for Berkshire, giving it a reputation as a lender of last resort to companies in need.

In February, Uber was valued at $72bn.

Updated: May 31, 2018 11:36 AM