Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway on Friday received authorization from federal energy regulators to acquire up to 50 percent of Occidental Petroleum, one of country’s largest oil and natural gas producers.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in its order authorizing the partial acquisition that Berkshire had said in its July request that the share purchase “would not have an adverse effect” on utility rates and would not hurt competition.
This month, Berkshire disclosed that it had already accumulated more than 20 percent of Occidental’s shares. Shares of the oil company, which is based in Houston, had already risen by more 100 percent this year, and climbed an additional 9 percent after FERC released its order on Friday.
Berkshire already has a big presence in the energy industry, though it doesn’t own an oil and gas producer. Its Berkshire Hathaway Energy division includes several utilities like PacifiCorp, MidAmerican Energy and NV Energy that serve residential and business customers in the Midwest and West.
Mr. Buffett and his company have been deepening ties to Occidental for several years. During Occidental’s bidding war with Chevron for Anadarko in 2019, Occidental raised $10 billion from Berkshire by selling it preferred stock that pays an 8 percent dividend. Occidental ultimately prevailed and acquired Anadarko before the pandemic sent energy prices tumbling.
Representatives of Berkshire and Occidental did not respond to requests for comment.
Many investors on Wall Street have grown wary of investing in oil, gas and coal in recent years because of growing concerns about climate change. But Mr. Buffett has long bucked conventional wisdom, including rebuffing activist investors who want Berkshire to disclose more information about the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the businesses owned by Berkshire, and to spend more money on environmental sustainability.
Unlike many U.S. oil and gas companies, Occidental has been outspoken about its intention to be part of an energy transition. It has invested in a company, Carbon Engineering, that is working on taking carbon dioxide out of the air. Occidental plans to use the technology to capture carbon, pipe it into oil fields in West Texas to increase fossil fuel production and leave the carbon buried in the ground.
Occidental is one of the biggest producers in the Permian basin straddling Texas and New Mexico, the most productive American oil field. Among large U.S. oil companies, it has announced the most ambitious emissions reduction targets. The company has said it aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.