Warren Buffett. Picture: REUTERS
Warren Buffett. Picture: REUTERS

NEW YORK — Warren Buffett will become one of Goldman Sachs’ 10 largest shareholders essentially for free, after he and the bank amended a 2008 deal to exchange his potential profit on Goldman warrants for stock.

The exchange, which Goldman detailed on Tuesday, saves Mr Buffett billions of dollars in upfront costs and lets Goldman minimise dilution to its stock. Under a 2008 deal, Mr Buffett had held the right to acquire about 43.5-million shares of stock at an exercise price of $115.

Goldman said it will now give Berkshire shares reflecting the difference between the warrants’ original exercise price of $115 and the average closing price of Goldman’s stock for the 10 trading days up to October 1. Goldman shares rose 0.9% to $147.43 in early trading.

At that price, the structure of the deal implies that Berkshire would receive 9.6-million Goldman shares. That would make Mr Buffett the ninth-largest investor in the firm, data show.

"We are pleased that Berkshire Hathaway intends to remain a long-term investor in Goldman Sachs," Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said in a statement. Mr Buffett, in the same statement, affirmed that Berkshire intended to retain a "significant investment" in Goldman.

The new shares represent about 2% of Goldman’s outstanding stock as of mid-February. Had Mr Buffett fully exercised the warrants, it would have represented about 9% of Goldman’s stock.

The deal is "all good for Goldman", said Glenn Schorr, an analyst at Nomura who covers the bank.

Mr Buffett’s implied stake was already included in Goldman’s fully diluted share count, said Mr Schorr, who added: "And who wouldn’t want (Warren Buffett) as a larger, long-term shareholder?"

Berkshire received the warrants in 2008 after investing in Goldman during the depths of the financial crisis, in what was seen, at the time, as a vote of confidence in the bank.

It came at a cost, though — preferred stock that paid Mr Buffett dividends of $15 a second. Goldman repurchased those shares from Mr Buffett at a premium in March 2011. Between that premium, the dividends the preferred shares paid while he held them, a special dividend at the time of redemption, and the paper profit on the shares from the warrant deal, Mr Buffett will potentially have made a profit of nearly $4.7bn on his original $5bn investment.

In August 2011, Berkshire Hathaway invested $5bn in Bank of America when the second-largest US bank’s shares were falling. Berkshire received preferred shares as well as warrants to purchase 700-million Bank of America shares at a price of $7.14 over a 10-year period. The shares closed on Monday at $12.40.

Reuters