Buffett’s firm reports huge profit jump on paper gain

May 4, 2019
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Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, left, and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, briefly chat with reporters Friday, May 3, 2019, one day before Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting. An estimated 40,000 people are expected in town for the event, where Buffett and Munger preside over the meeting and spend hours answering questions. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett’s company on Saturday reported a nearly $23 billion jump in its first quarter earnings because of a major swing in the paper value of its investments.

Berkshire Hathaway said it made $21.6 billion, or $13,209 per Class A share, in the first quarter. That’s up from last year’s loss of $1.14 billion, or $692 per share.

Berkshire said the numbers don’t include any contributions from its ownership of more than one-quarter of Kraft Heinz, which has struggled recently.

Buffett has long said Berkshire’s operating earnings offer a better view of quarterly performance because they exclude investments and derivatives, which can vary widely.

By that measure, Berkshire reported operating earnings of $5.56 billion, or $3,387.56 per Class A share. That’s up from $5.29 billion, or $3, 214.67 per A share.

The analysts surveyed by FactSet expected operating earnings of $3,461.43 per Class A share.

Berkshire reported spending $1.7 billion on repurchasing shares in the first quarter. Edward Jones analyst Jim Shanahan said that’s an encouraging sign because it means Berkshire is willing to pay higher prices for its own stock than it has in the past.

Last summer, Berkshire loosened its internal rules on buybacks, but this is one of the first major purchases since then.

“It looks like the buyback is a more realistic scenario for the company now,” Shanahan said.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns more than 90 companies, including BNSF railroad and clothing, furniture and jewelry businesses. Its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company’s net income. The company also has major investments in such companies as Apple, American Express, Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo & Co.


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