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Buffett Buys 10% Stake in Chinese Battery Maker

Written by Ucilia Wang

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A - Get Report), plans to invest about $230 million in BYD Co., a Chinese car and battery maker, the companies said Monday in Hong Kong.

Des Moines, Iowa-based MidAmerican has agreed to buy 225 million shares, which represent a 10-percent stake in the publicly-traded BYD [Hong Kong Stock Exchange ticker: 1211]. The company, founded in 1995 and based in Shenzhen, China, operates two divisions: information technology and automobiles.

BYD claims to be the world's largest maker of nickel and lithium-ion batteries for cell phones, counting Nokia (NOK - Get Report), Motorola (MOT) and Samsung among its customers. The company also develops and makes other cell-phone parts.

But MidAmerican's interest in BYD lies in the Chinese company's battery development for storing solar and wind power, said David Sokol at a press conference in Hong Kong (via Bloomberg).

Lithium-ion batteries have become the energy storage of choice for some electric carmakers. Lithium-ion batteries can hold more juice than other types of car batteries today, but lithium-ion is much more expensive.

BYD entered the car business in 2003 with the acquisition of the Tsinchuan Automobile Co. The company, which has been selling gasoline-powered cars, intends to build a plug-in hybrid electric car by the end of this year, the New York Times reported last month.
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