Buffett’s Berkshire has bigger loss as stocks fall; operating profit sets record

(Reuters) -Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Saturday posted its first overall quarterly loss in a year as the prices of Apple and other stocks it owns fell, but said improvement in its insurance operations boosted operating profit to a record.

Though its businesses fared better overall, Berkshire signaled caution about valuations, as its cash stake swelled to a record $157.2 billion in the third quarter, when it sold $5.3 billion more stocks than it bought.

Berkshire also slowed repurchases of its own stock, buying back $1.1 billion in the third quarter.

Investors watch Berkshire closely because its results often reflect broader economic trends, and because of Buffett’s reputation as an investor.

The third-quarter net loss more than quadrupled to $12.77 billion, or $8,824 per Class A share, from $2.8 billion a year earlier.

Results included $23.5 billion of losses from investments, primarily reflecting a 12% decline in the stock price of Apple, in which Berkshire had owned a $177.6 billion stake.

Berkshire’s net results swing widely from quarter to quarter because accounting rules require the company to report investment gains and losses even if it buys and sells nothing. Buffett says the resulting volatility is usually meaningless.

Operating profit rose 41% to $10.76 billion, or $7,444 per Class A share, from $7.65 billion a year earlier.

Insurance operations generated $4.89 billion of profit, as the Geico car insurer and reinsurance businesses made money after posting losses in 2022, while rising interest rates boosted income generated from U.S. Treasuries.

Berkshire also benefited from a relatively quiet Atlantic hurricane season, which reduced catastrophe losses, unlike in 2022 when it lost $2.7 billion from Hurricane Ian.

The conglomerate also owns dozens of other businesses including the BNSF railroad, several energy companies, Dairy Queen ice cream, Duracell batteries, Fruit of the Loom underwear and See’s candies.

Buffett, 93, has run Berkshire since 1965. His $117.5 billion net worth ranks fifth worldwide according to Forbes magazine.

Berkshire shares are up 14% this year, matching the Standard & Poor’s 500.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jason Neely)

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