Buffett’s Ride on BNSF Rails Paying Off

I was at the Billings Chamber of Commerce legislative panel discussion Wednesday.  The luncheon discussed featured a very informative collection of thoughts from Sen. Jeff Essmann (R-Billings), Sen. Kim Gillan (D-Billings), Rep. Tom McGilvray (R-Billings), and Rep. Margie MacDonald (D-Billings).  More to follow with thoughts from each of them, but first- I found a comment from McGilvray very enlightening, especially considering this article from Bloomberg’s Business Week.

During the panel discussion, if I heard McGilvray correct, he said that each coal train that passes by the City of Billings represents roughly $25,000 in state tax revenue.  As Adam Sandler once said, “Not too shabby.”

Meanwhile, if you missed the Business Week  piece, here’s an excerpt:

Buffett’s Ride on the Rails Paying Off

A little more than a year ago, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) Chairman Warren E. Buffett made his famous “all-in wager” on the economic future of the U.S. Berkshire spent $26.5 billion to buy the 77 percent of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad the company didn’t already own, essentially taking it private. It seemed a daring bet at the time, considering that the U.S. had fallen into a deep recession that had crushed consumer spending and created the highest unemployment in a quarter century.

Yet in only 15 months the Burlington investment has played out better than even Buffett says he expected. The recovery from the recession, which ended in late 2009, continues to strengthen, unemployment has dipped, and even the unforeseen jump in oil prices has worked to railroads’ advantage. All that’s buoyed Buffett’s financial return: In the first 13 months since the buyout, Burlington paid out $2.25 billion in dividends to its new parent, Berkshire, and will fork over another $1 billion this month.


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