Hurricanes, quake reduce profit at Buffett's Berkshire

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The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. engine is chugging along, just as he said it would.

Berkshire recorded a $1.4 billion loss on its insurance underwriting stemming from $3 billion in claims from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and an quake in Mexico.

It wasn't all that long ago that Berkshire's railroad business - BNSF, which it acquired in 2010 - was dragging down profit as lessening demand for coal muted shipping needs.


Berkshire on Friday said it lost $3 billion before taxes, or $1.95 billion after-tax, from the disasters, leaving its Geico auto insurance, General Re reinsurance and Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance units with underwriting losses for the year. Meanwhile, the manufacturing operations - which expanded with Berkshire's $37 billion takeover of Precision Castparts that closed early previous year - just cranked out its own record profit.

Buffett, who has focused on buying ever-larger businesses as Berkshire has grown, now owns or has sizable stakes in well-known American companies and brands, such as paint-maker Benjamin Moore, candy retailer See's Candies, Dairy Queen, battery-maker Duracell, homebuilder Clayton Homes and consumer products giant Kraft Heinz. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, were $2,094 per share.

Investors have remained confident in Berkshire's prospects, and have boosted its share price 15 percent this year. In the final minutes of trading on Friday, shares hit $280,470.01, a climb of 30 percent in the last 12 months. Both were about 2 percent below their October 24 record highs.


But investment income from insurance operations cushioned the blow, rising 23 percent to $1.04 billion. The company also had a $252 million in foreign currency exchange loss during the quarter.

Insurance float is $113B, up $22B since the end of 2016.


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