February 1, 2013 / 7:10 PM / 5 years ago

TEXT - Fitch rates Berkshire Hathaway senior debt issue

Feb 1 - Fitch Ratings has assigned an 'A+' rating to the $2.6 billion of
senior unsecured notes issued by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK).

The issuance consists of the following: $300 million of 0.8% notes maturing in 
2016, $800 million of 1.55% notes maturing in 2018, $500 million of 3% notes 
maturing in 2022 and $1 billion of 4.5% notes maturing in 2043.  Proceeds from 
the senior notes are to be used to redeem $2.6 billion in senior unsecured notes
maturing on Feb. 11, 2013, and consequently financial leverage ratios will not 

Fitch's ratings on BRK are supported by extremely strong capitalization and 
market position of its insurance subsidiaries, solid operating performance with 
good diversification across business lines and excellent financial flexibility 
and liquidity.  

Also considered in the ratings are material risk exposures related to an 
above-average investment allocation to common stocks, a substantial position in 
equity derivatives, insured natural catastrophe exposures, and various issues 
associated with the company's acquisition strategy and succession planning.  

Fitch's assessment of the organization's financial leverage includes debt issued
by the organization's ultimate holding company, debt issued by insurance holding
company subsidiaries, and debt issued by the company's finance segment 
subsidiaries that is guaranteed by BRK. Following this approach, debt-to-total 
capital and debt-to-tangible capital ratios were moderate at 19% and 25%, 
respectively, at Sept. 30, 2012.  Debt from BRK's utilities and railroad 
operations are expected to be self-funding and are excluded from the 
calculation.  On a consolidated basis, debt-to-total capital was 25% as of Sept.
30, 2012.

Consolidated operating interest coverage for the first nine months of 2012 was 
greater than 8x, which is more consistent with companies in the next lower 
rating category.  Fitch's expectations for companies at BRK's rating level 
include median interest coverage of 12x.  Somewhat offsetting this is 
approximately $42 billion of cash and equivalents at the holding company and 
insurance operating companies at Sept. 30, 2012.  Debt in BRK's capital 
structure funds widely different activities, and it is this blended picture that
is below Fitch's expectations relative to insurance company peers.  


Key rating triggers that could lead to a future downgrade include:

--Deterioration in the credit quality of key insurance subsidiaries (National 
Indemnity, GenRe, and GEICO) that is no longer consistent with the current 'AA+'
rating.  Measures of credit quality include Fitch's judgment of capitalization, 
a total financing and commitments ratio greater than 1.5x, net leverage 
(excluding affiliated investments) over 3.5x or a sharp and persistent reduction
in underwriting profits;  

--A run-rate debt-to-tangible capital ratio from the holding company, insurance 
and finance operations (including debt issued or guaranteed by the holding 
company) that exceeds 30%;

--Material increases in leveraged equity market exposure such as its equity 
index put derivative portfolio;   

--Acquisitions or other actions that reduce outstanding cash below $10 billion 
or approximately 5x consolidated interest expense.     

Key rating triggers that could lead to an upgrade include:

--A commitment to lower debt-to-tangible capital ratios attributed to the 
holding company, insurance and finance operations.  Fitch believes that this 
would likely require the scaling back of the finance operations.  

Fitch has assigned the following ratings:

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. 

--$300 million 0.8% senior notes due May 2016 'A+';
--$800 million 1.55% senior notes due May 2018 'A+';
--$500 million 3.0% senior notes due May 2023 'A+';
--$1 billion 4.5% senior notes due May 2043 'A+'.

Fitch took no action on the following ratings: 

Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. 
--Issuer Default Rating (IDR) 'AA-'. 
--$1.2 billion floating rate senior notes due Feb. 2013 'A+';
--$1.4 billion 2.125% senior notes due Feb. 2013 'A+';
--$750 million floating rate senior notes due Aug. 2014 'A+';
--$1.7 billion 3.20% senior notes Feb. 2015 'A+'; 
--$750 million 2.20% senior notes due Aug. 2016 'A+';
--$1.1 billion 1.9% senior notes due Jan. 2017 'A+';
--$500 million 3.75% senior notes due Aug. 2021 'A+';
--$600 million 3.40% senior notes due Jan. 2022 'A+'.

Berkshire Hathaway Finance Corporation (BHFC) 

--IDR 'AA-';
--$1 billion 4.6% notes due May 2013 'A+'; 
--$1 billion 5.0% notes due Aug. 2013 'A+';
--$950 million 4.625% notes due Oct. 2013 'A+'; 
--$375 million floating rate senior notes due Jan. 2014 'A+' 
--$375 million 1.50% senior notes due Jan. 2014 'A+';
--$400 million 5.1% notes due July 2014 'A+'; 
--$1 billion 4.85% notes due Jan. 2015 'A+';
--$500 million 2.45% senior notes due Dec. 2015 'A+';
--$1,350 million 1.6% senior notes due May 2017 'A+'; 
--$1.25 billion 5.4% notes due May 2018 'A+'; 
--$750 million 4.25% senior notes due Jan. 2021 'A+';
--$775million 3.0% senior notes due May 2022 'A+';
--$750 million 5.750% senior notes due Jan. 2040 'A+'
--$500 million 4.4% senior notes due May 2042 at 'A+'.

GEICO Corporation 
--IDR 'AA-';   
--$150 million 7.4% senior notes due July 15, 2023 'A+'. 

General Re Corporation 
--IDR 'AA-'.
--$500 million commercial paper program 'F1+';
--Short-term IDR 'F1+'.

Fitch did not take a rating action on the following insurance subsidiaries that 
currently carry an 'AA+' Insurer Financial Strength:

--Government Employers Insurance Company; 
--General Reinsurance Corporation; 
--General Star Indemnity Company; 
--General Star National Insurance Company;
--Genesis Insurance Company; 
--National Indemnity Company; 
--Columbia Insurance Company;
--National Fire and Marine Insurance Company;
--National Liability and Fire Insurance Company;
--National Indemnity Company of the South;
--National Indemnity Company of Mid-America;
--Wesco Financial Insurance Company.

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