Berkshire Hathaway Profit Falls -- Update

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Anna Prior

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. reported lower railroad and insurance-related net income as the conglomerate posted a 6.6% drop in first-quarter operating profit.

Berkshire, which has large insurance operations and owns a railroad, power plants, and apparel makers, also had a larger gain on investments than the year-earlier period, though its derivatives gain was lower compared with a year earlier.

Mr. Buffett, Berkshire's chairman and chief executive, has built the company into a gigantic conglomerate. At its core, though, is its insurance operation, which includes car insurer Geico Corp., reinsurer General Re and several other companies.

For the first quarter, Berkshire reported net income of $4.71 billion, or $2,862 a Class A share, compared with $ 4.89 billion, or $2,977 a share, a year earlier. Operating profit, which excludes some investment results, fell to $ 2,149 a share from $2,302 a share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting operating earnings of $2,172 per Class A share.

Revenue rose 3.6% to $45.45 billion, as the company reported top-line increases from its insurance operations and railroad, utilities and energy segment.

Per-share book value, a measure of assets minus liabilities that is Mr. Buffett's preferred yardstick for measuring net work, rose 2.6% since year-end 2013, standing at $138,426 a Class A share as of March 31.

The company posted a $1.02 billion gain from sales and redemptions of investments, and $153 million in derivative gains.

Berkshire's insurance operations reported a $461 million underwriting profit, down from $901 million in the prior year.

Berkshire and other insurers have strained to increase their investment income amid low interest rates. For the latest quarter, Berkshire reported investment income from the insurance operations slipped 9.9% to $720 million.

Meanwhile, Berkshire's railroad operations reported a $724 million profit, down from $798 million in the prior year.

Berkshire is slated to hold its annual meeting in Omaha, Neb. this weekend. More than 38,000 people are expected for the event, which is typically a celebration of Mr. Buffett's investing prowess and wisdom.

Write to Anna Prior at anna.prior@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires


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