Warren Buffett’s firm reports $12.8 billion loss as investments fall but its insurers performed well


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett’s company has reported a nearly $13 billion loss in the third quarter as the paper value of its investments fell, but the companies it owns — particularly the insurers — generally performed well.

Berkshire Hathaway said Saturday that it lost $12.8 billion, or $8,824 per Class A share, in the quarter. That’s significantly bigger than the $2.8 billion loss, or $1,907 per Class A share, that it reported a year ago.

But most of those investment losses are unrealized because Berkshire didn’t actually sell most of its stocks with its biggest holding being a massive stake in Apple. Accounting rules require it to include the value of its investments, which it put at $341.1 billion at the end of the quarter, in its earnings. Last quarter, it said its stock portfolio was worth $353 billion.

That’s why Buffett has long said investors are better served focusing on Berkshire’s operating earnings, which exclude the value of its investments that can vary widely quarter to quarter. By that measure, Berkshire said its operating profit jumped nearly 41% to $10.8 billion, or $7,437.15 per Class A share. That’s up from $7.65 billion, or $5,215.60 per Class A share, a year ago.

The three analysts surveyed by FactSet Research expected Berkshire to report operating earnings per share of $6,540.23 on average.

Berkshire’s insurance unit was helped by relatively low losses related to major catastrophes like hurricanes this year and a rebound in Geico’s profits. Altogether, Berkshire’s insurers contributed $2.4 billion to its operating profit. A year ago, the insurers reported a $1.1 billion loss in the third quarter.

In addition to insurers, the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate owns BNSF railroad, several major utilities and an eclectic assortment of manufacturing and retail firms including aviation parts maker Precision Castparts, See’s Candy, Dairy Queen and Helzberg Diamonds.

Profits fell at the railroad to $1.2 billion from last year’s $1.4 billion as BNSF hauled nearly 5% fewer shipments with the biggest drop in volume coming in consumer products.

The utility unit contributed only $498 million to Berkshire’s operating profit, down from $1.6 billion a year ago as its operating expenses soared 55% to $3.7 billion. The biggest driver in that increase in expenses was a $1.3 billion loss related to wildfires at its PacifiCorp unit.

Berkshire did repurchase $1.1 billion of its own stock in the quarter, but the pace of its buybacks is down considerably from the first quarter, when it bought $4.4 billion of Berkshire shares. Buffett only buys back Berkshire’s shares when he believes they are selling for a bargain.

Buffett continues to sit on a massive pile of cash because he hasn’t made any major investments or acquisitions this year. Berkshire had $157.2 billion in cash at the end of the quarter, up from $147.4 billion at the end of the second quarter.


For more AP coverage of Berkshire Hathaway: https://apnews.com/hub/berkshire-hathaway-inc

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