Berkshire profit up 10 percent as railroad rebounds

Sat May 2, 2015 12:20pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel and Luciana Lopez

OMAHA, Neb. (Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N: Quote) (BRKb.N: Quote) on Friday said first-quarter profit rose 10 percent, and operating results easily beat forecasts, boosted by its railroad and insurance businesses and gains from derivatives.

Net income for the Omaha, Nebraska-based insurance and investment conglomerate rose to $5.16 billion, or $3,143 per share, from $4.71 billion, or $2,862, a year earlier.

Quarterly operating profit increased 20 percent to $4.24 billion, or $2,583 per share, from $3.53 billion, or $2,149. Analysts on average expected operating profit of about $2,373 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $48.64 billion. Book value per share, Buffett's preferred measure of growth, rose 0.5 percent from year-end to $146,963.

Cathy Seifert, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ, called results "really strong," in contrast to many companies in sectors where Berkshire competes that have posted "middling" performance.

Results were released one day before Berkshire's annual meeting in Omaha, where shareholders are expected to celebrate Buffett's 50th anniversary at Berkshire's helm.

Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger will field five hours of questions at the meeting, which is expected to draw more than 40,000 shareholders. It is part of a weekend of events throughout Omaha that Buffett calls "Woodstock for Capitalists."

Once a struggling textile mill, Berkshire now has more than 80 operating companies in the energy, food, industrial products, insurance, railroad and other sectors, and owns more than $115 billion of stocks.   Continued...

Berkshire Hathaway shareholders get wristbands to prove they have been checked for legal drinking age as they arrive for an opening cocktail reception at the Berkshire-owned Borsheim's jewelry store in Omaha, Nebraska May 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking