Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cheapest Route to Walmart From China May Skip Buffett’s Railway (BNI; BRK.A; BRK.B)

From Bloomberg:
Chinese toys and sneakers headed to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. on the U.S. East Coast may bypass Warren Buffett’s $33.8 billion railway as the expansion of the Panama Canal slashes the cost of shipping them by sea.

The deeper, wider canal will allow A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, China Ocean Shipping Group Co. and other lines to ship more cargo directly to New York and Boston instead of unloading it on the West Coast for trains and trucks to finish the journey east. That could save exporters 30 percent, the canal operator said.

The $5.25 billion Panama Canal project, scheduled for completion during its centennial in 2014, may take business from ports including Los Angeles and Seattle, and railroads including Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. It costs as much as $1,000 more per cargo container to use trains than ships, said Lee Sokje, a shipbuilding analyst at Mirae Asset Securities Co. in Seoul.

“It is inevitable that railways, such as Burlington Northern, will lose some of their cargo once the Panama Canal is expanded,” said Jee Heon Seok, a shipping analyst for NH Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. “Many more containers can be moved in a single voyage on a ship than going through the West Coast ports.">>>MORE