Small Investors, Rejoice: Berkshire Hathaway Stock to Split 50-to-1

Have you been itching to invest in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B), but didn't have the $3,400-and-change it would cost to buy a single Class B share? Now's your chance.As expected, shareholders in Berkshire Hathaway have approved a 50-to-1 split of the company's Class B shares, meaning the price of the stock will drop to about $67 a share on Thursday from a current face value of about $3,400. The share split is tied to Berkshire's planned purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (BNI).

Berkshire introduced the (relatively) lower priced Class B shares in 1996 in order to allow smaller investors to gain entry to the company. The Class A shares, which won't split, currently go for about $103,000 a pop.

The high price of both classes of stock have helped protect Berkshire from what Buffett calls "inferior buyers," since the cost of a single share made the stock difficult to trade rapidly and proved too pricey for most retail investors. But at $67, the Class B shares will likely see large increases in both volume and volatility.

The split was necessitated by Berkshire's November agreement to buy the 77% of Burlington Northern it doesn't already own. Berkshire is paying $100 a share, with 60% in cash and 40% in Class B stock. By splitting the stock, Berkshire is essentially breaking a large-denomination bill into a big pile of small change to simplify the stock portion of the purchase.

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