Buffett Offers Spanish Bank Some Extra Life
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In a rare move, Warren Buffett -run investing conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) is dipping its toes into Europe, in a near $800 million life reinsurance deal with Spanish lender CaixaBank.
The deal signals the 'Oracle of Omaha' is willing to extend his financial resources to the aid of struggling Eurozone banks after he made multi-billion dollar preferred share investments in the likes of Goldman Sachs (GS) , General Electric (GE) and Bank of America (BAC) , in the wake of the financial crisis.
Still, in making investments that bolster the financial position of lenders in need of capital, Buffett continues to avoid making taking direct common stock positions.
On Friday, Berkshire Hathaway said it will invest 600 million euros in the cash flows of the CaixaBank's life insurance portfolios, a move that will help the struggling Spanish lender to book accounting gains and increase its capital position. While CaixaBank will retain management of its life insurance portfolio and wont impact the lender's operations, the deal may give it needed capital to weather Spain's still falling real estate market and economy.
In the wake of the crisis, the Spanish government has been pushing for consolidation within the country's banking system. As one of the healthier banks in Spain, CaixaBank has recently been an acquirer. Earlier in 2012, CaixaBank took over Banca Civica, and in November it acquired Banco de Valencia, in moves that may help the overall soundness of the Spanish banking system.
Buffett's investment in CaixaBank by way of a deal for the bank's future reinsurance cash flow mirrors similar deals cut by competitors. Spain's largest lender Banco Santander (STD) sold a portfolio of life insurance policies to Deutsche Bank (DB) , which netted the bank an near 500 million euro accounting gain.
Still, Buffett's reinsurance investment in CaixaBank comes in contrast to his stated outlook for the eurozone. In July, Buffett said economic turmoil in Europe has come quickly and that he expects european economy to continue to contract. "Things have slipped pretty fast," said Buffett.
Those comments contrast with an optimistic outlook for the U.S. economy, and in particular, an accelerating housing market recovery.
"The general economy in the United States has been more or less flat, and so the growth has tempered down. But the residential housing, we're seeing a pickup. It's noticeable. It's from a very low base," said Buffett on CNBC, in July.
For more on Berkshire Hathaway, here's how Buffett explained in his annual letter that Berkshire Hathaway is positioned for growth in 2012 and beyond .
See what Warren Buffett knows about bank investing that you don't for more on the 'Oracle's' investing strategy.