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Berkshire Hathaway Reports Strong Earnings And Record Cash Holdings

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A/BRK.B), the holding company of famed investor Warren Buffett, reported strong fourth quarter financial results due largely to gains in its insurance business.

The Omaha-based conglomerate that owns businesses ranging from Geico insurance and BNSF railroad to the Dairy Queen restaurant chain reported operating earnings of $8.481 billion U.S. in the quarter ending Dec 31.

The result was 28% higher than the $6.625 billion U.S. reported a year earlier.

For all of last year, Berkshire Hathaway announced operating earnings of $37.350 billion U.S., up 17% from $30.853 billion U.S. the previous year.

The company’s operating profits per class A share totaled $5,881 U.S. in Q4 2023, up 30% from the same period of 2022 and topping the consensus estimate among analysts of $5,717 U.S. per share.

Berkshire Hathaway had a record $167.60 billion U.S. of cash on hand at the end of Q4, up from $157.20 billion U.S. at the end of last year’s third quarter.

The company bought back $2.20 billion U.S. of its own stock in Q4 of last year, up from $1.10 billion U.S. in the third quarter.

Total share repurchases for all of last year were $9.20 billion U.S., up from $7.90 billion U.S. in 2022, but down from a record $27.10 billion U.S. in 2021.

The latest financial results were driven in large part by Geico. The auto insurer reported a profitable year, with earnings of $5.428 billion U.S.

Insurance underwriting at Berkshire surged to $848 million U.S. in Q4, up 430% from $160 million U.S. a year earlier. Insurance investment income rose 37% to $2.759 billion U.S. in the quarter.

Partially offsetting the insurance gains was a decline in the earnings of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). The railroad reported full-year earnings of $5.087 billion U.S., a 14% decrease from $5.946 billion U.S. the previous year.

Operating earnings from utilities and energy also fell, dropping to $632 million U.S. from $739 million U.S. a year earlier.

Berkshire was a net seller of stocks in Q4 2023, selling less than $1 billion U.S. of the securities it owns in its massive portfolio.

The more affordable Class B stock of Berkshire Hathaway has gained 37% in the last 12 months to trade at $417.22 U.S. per share.