Buffett may be seeking Westar

There?s a new business deal in the works that?s going to affect every one of us if it happens.

Especially that?s likely if you use electricity.

It might happen whether you receive electricity for lighting, heating and switching directly from Westar Energy or from an electric cooperative itself under contract for power with Westar.

In Mid-March, Westar announced it was in negotiation to be sold to somebody. And that?s all the company said. There are no announcements since then.

But it?s likely to affect all of us whether, you are an electrical customer or if you also own stock in Westar.

The pundits, the analysts, everyone who seems to know anything, are saying that buyer is likely Berkshire Hathaway, the company owned predominantly by its founder, Warren Buffett of Omaha, Neb.

Westar has its is headquarters in Topeka, and Buffett has other business investments there reportedly through looking at it as part of the economic hub centered on Omaha and of course Kansas City.

His business interests in this ?hub? include Kansas Bankers Surety and Helz?berg?s Diamonds. He bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, shipped North Dakota Oil on it, and probably helped block a pipeline that would have taken away some railroad business.

Various business interests say he has looked at Westar before. But what?s changed is that now he is probably interested in buying utilities because of new solar electrical generation he has in Nevada.

In response to all of this, on the stock market, Westar has moved from the $30 and $40 a share range to $50.

Some commentators are saying Buffett wouldn?t blink an eye at paying the increased price, perhaps even sweetening it with shares in Berkshire Hatha?way.

Buffett?s company already has done business with Westar for several years through a joint venture to build high-capacity electrical transmission in southcentral Kansas.

Prairie Wind Transmis?sion is a joint venture of Westar Energy with Berk?shire Hathaway and Electric Transmission America.

It is a 108-mile, 345-kilovolt line that serves wind farms like a superhighway of electrical transmission.

Westar is reported to be in a potential sale because it had a down year with less air conditioning required in the summer and a mild winter.

But it is also known as a progressive utility.

Its alternative energy generation from wind and solar is expected to be up 17 percent in 2016 from a 9 percent increase in 2015.

Its coal generation is expected to decline to 44 percent from 48 percent. Natural gas generation is expected to decline from 35 percent to 32 percent.

Westar has changed from multiple business ventures in the 1990s to a pure-play utility since the early 2000s with investment grade bonds.

Buffett also has been buying into companies such as Phillips 66, where he owns 13.7 percent now. He owns high stakes in Sees Candy and Coca Cola. The list of acquisitions goes on and on.

Buffett likely might also be interested in Westar because the wind generating industry might have a strong future in Kansas.

Personally, I would like to see Westar involved not only in wind turbines here, but in building a natural-gas-fired electrical plant that would utilize gas pumped from the ground here. Local gas producers tell me that is possible with the only limitation being how much water could be allocated for it. It has been pointed out it hasn?t been long ago that both Marion and Hillsboro had electrical generating plants with adequate water for them.

It would be possible to build a line or use an existing cross-country line in the southern part of the county.

So a side benefit to a Buffett purchase could be that he would bring the financing ability for such ventures with him.

I suspect we will likely hear something about any potential purchase of Westar by the end of April, perhaps even here in the first two weeks.

I don?t look for a purchase to have much impact on your utility bills because Westar would remain regulated by the state of Kansas.

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