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Buffett bankrolls $23.3 billion Heinz deal


– Billionaire Warren Buffett remains happiest while hunting for deals like Thursday’s $23.3 billion acquisition of the maker of Heinz ketchup his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is helping finance.

So Berkshire shareholders can set aside the idea that the 82-year-old Buffett might retire someday even if he did undergo prostate cancer treatment last summer.

Buffett enjoys what he does as Berkshire’s chairman and CEO far too much.

And he keeps looking for lucrative ways to use the $47 billion cash that Berkshire had on hand at the end of the year. Buffett biographer Andy Kilpatrick said his fellow shareholders can take comfort in the Heinz deal.

“I think it’s another sign that ‘I’m still here, guys,’ ” Kilpatrick said.

If Berkshire were buying H.J. Heinz Co. outright, the deal would be Buffett’s second-biggest ever behind the $26.3 billion purchase of BNSF railroad in 2010.

In the Heinz deal, Buffett told CNBC that Berkshire is putting up $12 billion to $13 billion in exchange for half the company and $8 billion in preferred stock that will pay 9 percent a year. The investment firm 3G Capital is putting up the rest of the money and will run Heinz.

The price tag of the Heinz deal makes it the biggest food company acquisition ever. But Buffett has always been willing to bet big on his favorite investment ideas because he’s confident in his analysis of it.

In northeast Indiana, Medical Protective Co. of Fort Wayne, and CTB Inc. in Milford, are part of Berkshire Hathaway.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, held at least $3 million in Heinz stock through family trusts as of 2010.

Teresa Heinz Kerry’s personal fortune is reportedly worth as much as $1.2 billion, stemming from her earlier marriage to former Pennsylvania Sen. John Heinz III, who died in 1991 in a helicopter crash.