Warren Buffett Should IPO MidAmerican Energy Now
NEW YORK (TheStreet) - When the U.S. government stepped in to rescue banks in the 2008 financial crisis, it was Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway(BRK.A) that invested billions into the likes of Goldman Sachs(GS) and General Electric (GE) , in a cornerstone investment that gave investors the confidence to put money back into the banking system.
Quietly, in the wake of President Obama's $50 billion earmark to the renewable energy industry as part of the 2009 billion stimulus bill, Berkshire Hathaway is again playing the role of savior investor. This time in the crisis-stricken solar energy sector.
After a Wednesday deal with California-based solar giant SunPower(SPWR) for ownership of the world's largest solar plant, Berkshire Hathaway's energy subsidiary MidAmerican Energy now has stakes in three of the largest U.S. solar power plants - two plants are built by First Solar(FSLR) -- as the industry undergoes transformation and tries to survive without government financial support.
When the three plants are completed by 2015, MidAmerican Energy will become a top utility in the U.S. and the world when it comes to "green energy" generation.
For investors who want to put their dollars behind renewable energy investments, Berkshire Hathaway by way of its MidAmerican Energy unit is in an enviable position. However, Warren Buffett's sprawling investment conglomerate and MidAmerican are far from a pure-play bet on the renewable energy sector.
If Buffett wants to be the cornerstone investor to the renewable energy sector - as he was to the banking industry in his crisis-time Goldman investment and a big holding in Main Street lenders like Wells Fargo (WFC) - it's time for the 'Oracle of Omaha' to consider spinning off MidAmerican Energy to public markets.
As a publicly traded standalone, MidAmerican's renewable strategy might get the investor attention it deserves, as the likes of SunPower and First Solar attempt to transform their business models to meet a post-stimulus reordering of the green energy business in America. Meanwhile, the company's traditional energy businesses could stand as an investor buffer.