Profit jumps 82% at Buffett’s firm but virus hurts business

Buffett maintains that Berkshire’s operating earnings offer a better view of quarterly performance because they exclude investments and derivatives, which can vary widely. By that measure, Berkshire’s operating earnings declined by 32%, to $5.49 billion, or $3,452.45 per Class A share. That’s down from $8.07 billion, or $4,943.04 per Class A share, a year earlier.

The four analysts surveyed by FactSet expected Berkshire to report operating earnings per Class A share of $3,587.63.

Berkshire said it spent $9 billion repurchasing its own shares during the third quarter, which is nearly double the record $5.1 billion it spent buying its own stock in the second quarter. But even after the repurchases and a handful of investments Berkshire made during the quarter, the company still held $145.7 billion in cash and short-term investments at the end of the third quarter.

Berkshire said its revenue slipped by 3% in the quarter, to $63.02 billion.

BNSF said profit fell by 8%, to $1.35 billion, at the railroad as the coronavirus continued to slow freight traffic. Berkshire said the railroad delivered 8% less freight during the quarter, which is better than the second quarter, when volume fell by 18% at the height of the virus-related business shutdowns, but still significantly lower than last year.

Berkshire owns more than 90 companies, including Geico insurance and utility, furniture, manufacturing and jewelry businesses. The Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate also has major investments in such companies as American Express, Moody’s and Coca-Cola.

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