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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. hits first quarter record profit at 51 percent

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Could the recession here in the U.S. finally be over? Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. hit a new record as first-quarter profit jumped 51 percent on gains from equity-linked derivatives and insurance operations. Net income climbed to $4.89 billion, or $2,977 a share, from $3.25 billion, or $1,966, a year earlier.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Omaha, Nebraska-based company declared that the gains grew to $49.1 billion from $47 billion three months earlier, overshadowing the previous record of $47.9 billion in the second quarter of 2011.

Improvements in the housing market have helped the U.S. economy rebound from the biggest slump since the Great Depression. Warren Buffett, as chairman and chief executive officer for more than 40 years, transformed the company through takeovers from a textile maker into a firm that hauls freight, generates electricity, sells insurance and manufactures building supplies from bricks to paint.

"This earnings report is the tip of the iceberg," Bill Smead, portfolio manager of the Smead Value Fund said. "Warren has organized the company around the rebirth of the United States economy over the next 10 years and this is the beginning of that rebirth."

Buffet was confident, but cautious. "It was a good quarter, it wasn't quite as good a quarter as it looks," Buffett said at the company's annual meeting in Omaha.

The equities portfolio was valued at $97.2 billion on March 31, up from $87.7 billion at the end of 2012 as American Express Co., Coca-Cola Co. (KO) and DirecTV rallied. Berkshire increased its stock bet in the category listed as "banks, insurance and finance" in the quarter, Buffett's firm said in a regulatory filing, without identifying companies.

Berkshire spent $1.41 billion on equities in the quarter after increasing the amount of funds overseen by deputy stock pickers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, while selling $673 million, according to the filing. There were $1.81 billion in purchases of fixed maturity securities and $675 million in sales.

Data from the Commerce Department proved that U.S. gross domestic product climbed at a 2.5 percent annualized pace in the first quarter, driven by higher consumer spending and residential construction.
 
Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group added $974 million before taxes, compared with a loss of $191 million a year earlier.

Berkshire cut some risks tied to a life deal with Swiss Re Ltd. in the first quarter, agreeing to pay the Zurich-based company to reduce the protection that Buffett's firm provides.

The 82-year-old Buffett has highlighted the prospects for the world's largest economy, where most of Berkshire's operations are based. The company has its "foot to the floor" and will probably set another record for capital spending this year after making a $9.8 billion outlay on plants and equipment in 2012, he wrote in his annual letter to shareholders.

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