Billionaire Warren Buffett had proposed to invest $3 billion in Uber Technologies Inc earlier in 2018, but the talks failed following disagreements over the deal’s terms, Bloomberg reported on30 May, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc would have provided a convertible loan to Uber that would have protected Buffett’s investment should the Silicon Valley ride-hailing company hit a financial crisis, the report said.
Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi proposed decreasing the size of the deal to $2 billion, giving Buffett a smaller share of the company. The deal fell after the two sides could not agree on terms, Bloomberg reported, citing a source.
Buffett told CNBC that “some of the reported details are not correct” but confirmed that Berkshire did have talks with Uber. Khosrowshahi also confirmed in an interview with CNBC that Uber did have discussions with Buffett, but added that he didn’t think “the reporting was entirely accurate.”
Asked about whether the talks could resume, Khosrowshahi said it was “always possible” and he would welcome any kind of dialogue with Buffett. A representative for Buffett did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An Uber spokesman declined to comment.
Buffett, who had long shunned the technology sector, has become a top shareholder of Apple Inc and expressed regret about not investing in Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc before they became huge.
Berkshire has $108.6 billion in cash and equivalents as of the end of March that it is eager to invest. Berkshire said much of the $14.8 billion it invested in equities during the first quarter went to Apple, and said it owned 239.6 million shares worth more than $40 billion.
That said, 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 Buffett, but he has handed over more responsibility to his investment deputies Todd Combs and Ted Weschler in recent years.
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 Khosrowshahi has not strayed from that timeline.
An investment by Buffett would likely have been viewed as a stamp of approval.
In the last decade, Buffett has invested billions of Berkshire dollars to support companies seeking a pick-me-up, including investments in Goldman Sachs Group Inc, General Electric Co and Bank of America Corp during or in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
Many of these have carried favorable terms for Berkshire, giving it a reputation as a lender of last resort to companies in need. In February, Uber was valued at $72 billion.