Buffett upbeat on American business; Berkshire operating profit down

Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:58pm EST
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Warren Buffett on Saturday mounted a forceful and upbeat defense of the prospects for American business, as his Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N: Quote) reported a higher quarterly profit though operating income fell.

In his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, Buffett said investors "will almost certainly do well" by staying with the long term with a "collection of large, conservatively financed American businesses."

Buffett puts Berkshire in that category, using the letter to tout the successes of many of his Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate's more than 90 operating units.

These included businesses such as the BNSF railroad and Geico auto insurance that posted weaker results last quarter.

"American business -- and consequently a basket of stocks -- is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead," Buffett wrote. "Ever-present naysayers may prosper by marketing their gloomy forecasts. But heaven help them if they act on the nonsense they peddle."

For the fourth quarter, Berkshire's net income rose to $6.29 billion, or $3,823 per Class A share, from $5.48 billion, or $3,333 per share, a year earlier, helped by a $1.1 billion increase in gains from investments and derivatives.

Operating profit fell 6 percent to $4.38 billion, or $2,665 per share, from $4.67 billion, or $2,843 per share.

Analysts on average had forecast operating profit of $2,716.60 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO - Warren Buffett, Chairman, CEO and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway takes part in interviews before a fundraising luncheon for the nonprofit Glide Foundation in New York, U.S. on September 8, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo