Buffett's Berkshire buys big Burlington stake

Legendary investor's firm takes stake of more than 10% in railroad Burlington Northern.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has bought a stake of more than 10 percent in railroad operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. that's worth about $3.2 billion, according to a filing with regulators.

The legendary investor's firm and its subsidiaries have acquired about 39 million shares of the Texas-based railroad, Berkshire Hathaway (Charts) said in an S-4 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday.

Buffett is perhaps the world's most widely imitated investor.

Burlington Northern (Charts), based in Fort Worth, Texas, has about 358 million shares outstanding. The company's stock closed at $82.72, up about 1.3 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. The stock market was closed for Good Friday.

The acquisition of Burlington stock is believed to be the first time that Buffett's firm has bought a stake in a railroad.

His other holdings include or have included American Express (Charts), Coca-Cola (Charts), Wells Fargo (Charts) and Chinese oil company PetroChina (Charts).

Buffett, 76, said in Berkshire's annual report released last month that he plans to hire a younger person - or perhaps more than one - to understudy him in managing Berkshire's investments.

Buffett said he will be helped in his search by Lou Simpson, 70, who has managed the investments of Berkshire subsidiary GEICO for more than 25 years, and by Berkshire's vice-chairman, Charles Munger.

At the end of 2006, Berkshire had $61 billion in equity investments; $28 billion in fixed-income securities; and cash holdings of $43 billion.

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