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Tickers in this Article: JOE, BNI, BRK.A, BRK.B, GE, GS
The year 2009 witnessed some deal-making activity that had been absent in 2008 as a result of the financial crisis. As one might expect, the decline in the equity market that took off in the fall of 2008 and peaked in early 2009 garnered fantastic opportunities for patient value-seeking investors.

The Elephant Deal
No deal generated more buzz this year than Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) $32 billion acquisition of railroad company Burlington Northern Sante Fe (NYSE:BNI). For nearly a decade, Buffett has stated publicly his desire to allocate Berkshire's $40 billion plus cash pile into an "elephant deal" when the time was right. He surprised many by going with a railroad - historically a low return, capital intensive business. However, over the past couple of decades, the railroad industry has gone through a titanic transformation that has led to greater efficiency and increased cost of capital earnings. Buffett's intent is to hold Burlington for decades, which is truly why this deal makes so much sense.

The big Burlington deal followed Buffett's two $5 billion preferred investments in Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and General Electric (NYSE:GE) toward the end of 2008.

Simple As Dirt
As a value investor, another notable big bet in 2009, Bruce Berkowitz's continued purchase of shares in Florida landowner St. Joe (NYSE:JOE), is noteworthy for its very contrarian stance. Buying into land in one of the states hit the hardest by the economic downturn has a lot of folks scratching their heads. But land is land. And one day its value will rise again. Fairholme currently owns nearly 28% of St. Joe and is not deterred by naysayers. The debt-free balance sheet ensures that this company will not erode shareholder value by having to issue new equity anytime soon. Going forward, this stock certainly will be one to watch.

Looking Ahead
Next year will be a year to watch for investors. The market has had an impressive rally since March, and with most shares now fully priced, it will be interesting to see what the biggest investors will do. (Learn more about Buffett's investments in Warren Buffett's Bear Market Maneuvers.)

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