Berkshire Hathaway posts massive US$43.8bil loss


Major indicator: Buffett arrives at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Investors closely watch Berkshire because of Buffett’s reputation, and because results from the conglomerate’s dozens of operating units often mirror broader economic trends. — AFP

NEW YORK: The slide in US stock prices punished Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s bottom line in the second quarter as the company run by billionaire Warren Buffett posted a US$43.8bil (RM195bil) loss.

Berkshire nevertheless generated nearly US$9.3bil (RM41.4bil) of profit from its operating businesses, as improvement from reinsurance and the BNSF railroad offset a loss at the Geico car insurer, where car parts shortages and higher vehicle prices boosted losses from accidents.

Rising interest rates and dividend payouts helped Berkshire’s insurance units generate more money from investments, while the strengthening US dollar boosted profit from the company’s European and Japanese debt investments.

Berkshire also slowed purchases of its stocks, including its own, though it ended June with US$105.4bil (RM469.4bil) of cash and equivalents it could still deploy.

“It shows the fickle nature of markets,” said Tom Russo, a partner at Gardner, Russo & Quinn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who invests more than US$8bil (RM35.6bil), of which 17% is in Berkshire. “It’s business as usual at Berkshire Hathaway.”

Investors closely watch Berkshire because of Buffett’s reputation, and because results from the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate’s dozens of operating units often mirror broader economic trends.

Berkshire owns dozens of businesses, including steady earners such as its namesake energy company, several insurers and industrial companies, and familiar consumer brands such as Dairy Queen, Duracell, Fruit of the Loom and See’s Candies.

In its quarterly report, Berkshire said “significant disruptions of supply chains and higher costs have persisted” as new Covid-19 variants emerge and because of geopolitical conflicts including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But it said direct losses to the company have not been material, despite the impact of higher costs for materials, shipping and labour.

Net results suffered from Berkshire’s US$53bil (RM236bil) of losses from investments and derivatives.

Stocks of three major holdings – Apple Inc, Bank of America Corp and American Express Co – each fell more than 21%, compared with a 16% decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500.

Accounting rules require Berkshire to report the losses with its results even if it buys and sells nothing.

Buffett urges investors to ignore the fluctuations, and Berkshire will make money if stocks rise over time.

In 2020, for example, Berkshire lost nearly US$50bil (RM222.7bil) in the first quarter as the pandemic took hold, but made US$42.5bil (RM189.3bil) for the full year.

The quarterly net loss was equal to US$29,754 (RM132,518) per Class A share, and compared with a net profit of US$28.1bil (RM125.2bil), or US$18,488 (RM82,341.5) per Class A share, a year earlier.

Berkshire’s US$9.28bil (RM41.3bil) of operating profit, or about US$6,326 (RM28,174.6) per Class A share, rose 39% from US$6.69bil (RM29.8bil), or US$4,424 (RM19,703.5) per Class A share, a year earlier. Currency gains on foreign debt totalled US$1.06bil (RM4.7bil).

Geico’s US$487mil (RM2.17bil) pre-tax loss was more than offset by a US$976mil (RM4.35bil) pre-tax gain in property and casualty reinsurance, and a 56% jump in after-tax in insurance investment income to US$1.91bil (RM8.5bil).

Profit rose 10% at BNSF, with higher revenue per car from fuel surcharges partially offsetting lower freight volumes and higher fuel costs, while profit from Berkshire Hathaway Energy rose 4%.

Berkshire repurchased just US$1bil (RM4.45bil) of its own stock, down from US$3.2bil (RM14.2bil) in the first quarter, and compared with US$51.7bil (RM230bil) in 2020 and 2021.

Its US$6.15bil (RM27.4bil) of stock purchases fell from US$51.1bil (RM227.6bil) in the first quarter, when it took major stakes in oil companies Chevron Corp and Occidental Petroleum Corp.

Berkshire expects to complete its US$11.6bil (RM51.7bil) takeover of insurance company Alleghany Corp in the fourth quarter. — Reuters

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