Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A) (BRK.B) has made an announcement to buy Roanoke Times from Virginia’s Landmark Media Enterprises.
Roanoke Times is a closely held newspaper company with a daily sale of 76,000. The price of the deal is unknown.
Over the past one and a half years Buffett has added a number of newspaper companies to its print media business.
However, in 2009, Warren Buffett stated that it was not very reasonable to continue his ownership of any newspaper business. At the time, he had declared his particular reservations about the practice of newspaper companies providing news online for free, yet charging for the same in print. According to Buffett, online news posed a threat to the print medium.
Nevertheless, Buffett appears to have changed his outlook toward the future of the newspaper industry and has added a number of newspaper companies to its print media business since then.
In 2011, Buffett purchased The Omaha World-Herald Company, publisher of Nebraska’s principal daily newspaper, for $200 million. The deal added the World-Herald six other daily newspapers and several weekly newspapers to the company’s media business portfolio. Berkshire’s media business portfolio also includes Business Wire and The Washington Post Co. ( WPO).
In 2012, Berkshire bought 63 Media General newspapers for $142 million. It also bought the Manassas News & Messenger, a Virginia newspaper, by the end of 2012. Buffett’s continuous buying of newspaper businesses suggests his optimism towards the newspaper industry. The company’s newspaper unit consists of nearly 30 small-or medium-sized dailies. Besides dailies, Berkshire owns 40 other newspapers businesses engaged in less frequent publishing along with other monthly publications and regional magazines.
According to Buffett, a newspaper is an institution, which is important in regions with a strong sense of community. He also believes that newspapers, which have been facing stiff competition from digitization, can prevent waning sales by focusing on community news.
Berkshire Hathaway retains a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other players from the same industry such as Alleghany Corp. ( Y), Hanover Insurance Group Inc. ( THG) and Global Indemnity plc ( GBLI), all with Zacks Rank #1(Strong Buy), are worth considering.
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