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Nati Harnik/APBerkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett.By JOSH FUNK
OMAHA, Neb. — Warren Buffett’s company said Saturday that fourth-quarter earnings rose 10 percent to nearly $5 billion as its insurance, rail and energy businesses generated major gains in the improving economy.
Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance companies, which include Geico and General Reinsurance, reported a $394 million underwriting profit for the final three months of 2013, compared with a $19 million loss a year earlier. The Omaha, Neb., company also benefited from the strong performance of its non-insurance companies including BNSF railroad and electric utility MidAmerican Energy.
Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) (BRK-B) owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including railroad, clothing, furniture and jewelry firms. Its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company’s net income. The company also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola (KO), IBM (IBM) and Wells Fargo (WFC), and last year bought NV Energy and a major stake in H.J. Heinz.
Berkshire’s fourth-quarter report and Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders released Saturday show the company doesn’t face any significant business issues in the coming year, said author and investor Jeff Matthews, who wrote “Warren Buffett’s Successor: Who It Is and Why It Matters.”
“Life is good at Berkshire Hathaway,” Matthews said Saturday.
Quarterly net income rose to $4.99 billion on revenue of $47.05 billion from $4.55 billion on revenue of $44.72 billion in 2012. Buffett has said he thinks operating earnings are a better measure of how Berkshire is performing because they aren’t affected by swings in the paper value of investments and derivatives. Operating earnings, which exclude investments and derivatives, grew to $3.78 billion, or $2,297 per Class A share.
Berkshire earned $19.48 billion for 2013 on total revenue of $182.15 billion. That’s up from $14.82 billion in profit and revenue of $162.46 billion in 2012. Strong gains in the value of its investments and derivative contracts added $4.3 billion to the results, up from $2.2 billion the previous year. That included gains Berkshire recorded last fall as it redeemed warrants for General Electric (GE) and Goldman Sachs (GS) stock and Mars and Wrigley repaid Berkshire for an investment made during the financial crisis.