NEW YORK -- Berkshire Hathaway is reportedly among the parties interested in acquiring Tyco International's CIT Group financial arm.
During Tyco's new weekly conference call to shareholders on Tuesday, L. Dennis Kozlowski, chairman and chief executive officer of Tyco, said, "We are in a number of discussions and negotiations for CIT."
Tyco is in the process of restructuring its business operations amid market concerns over its accounting practices. Kozlowski, in a conference call earlier this month, asserted that Tyco's finances were sound and adamantly denied reports of accounting improprieties.
Debt traders said this week that they've seen an unusual amount of activity concerning CIT, and they speculated that Warren Buffett, through his investment vehicle Berkshire Hathaway, was looking to make a bid for the financial firm that has a big factoring presence in the retail and apparel communities.
Sources said that a CIT acquisition "would make sense" considering Berkshire's penchant for financial companies in the insurance sector and recent investments in the apparel industry.
Berkshire, which by year end had apparently sold its 2.7 million shares in Citigroup Inc., last month received bankruptcy court approval of its $835 million offer to buy Fruit of the Loom. It still faces an appeal filed by several FTL bondholders who objected to the fee arrangement connected with the bidding procedures.
Other apparel investments include 8.6 million shares, or 6.9 percent, of Jones Apparel Group at yearend, and investments in Liz Claiborne, Nike and Gap. The investments in Liz, Nike and Gap are filed under confidential 13-F filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC permits filing of a confidential Form 13-F in some cases, for up to a year, to protect the investor from market reaction.
Tyco on Feb. 4 said it would conduct an initial public offering of CIT, then known as Tyco Capital, and spin it off to shareholders. However, two days later Tyco changed course and said there would be no public offering and that the company was considering other options, including a sale of the financial unit.
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