Veteran US investment guru Warren Buffett, who regularly swaps status as the world’s richest man with Microsoft supremo Bill Gates, has acquired the German motorcycle apparel and accessories retailer Detlev Louis Motorradvertriebs GmbH.
Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway bought this family business from Ute Louis, widow of eponymous founder Detlev Louis, for £294m. It will become a stand-alone subsidiary of the US parent.
Detlev Louis has 71 shops spread across Germany and Austria, plus extensive mail-order catalogue and web sales. It employs more than 1500 staff and has an annual turnover of about £200m.
“This is smaller than something we would normally do but it’s a door opener,” commented Buffett. ”I like the fact we have cracked the code in Germany.”
Berkshire Hathaway, which currently has an acquisition war chest of £36bn in cash, makes no secret of the fact it is looking for likely targets in Europe but would prefer much bigger propositions. It recently exited a large stake in the UK’s leading supermarket chain Tesco. On home turf, it owns all 57 varieties of Heinz, about ten per cent of Coca Cola and a huge commercially strategic slice of America’s railroad network, among many other blue-chip bets.
However, the Detlev Louis purchase isn’t Buffett’s first foray into motorcycling. In 2009 at the height of the credit crunch, he provided a £200m emergency debt lifeline to Harley-Davidson’s struggling financial services arm, his generosity leavened by 15 per cent annual interest over five years.