Berkshire Hathaway profit rises, helped by stock gains

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Saturday said quarterly operating income rose 14%, aided by improved results from its insurance businesses, while soaring prices of stock holdings such as Apple Inc led to a nearly $36 billion overall profit.

Fourth-quarter operating income rose to $5.02 billion, or approximately $3,252 per Class A share, from $4.42 billion, a year earlier.

Net income, reflecting the stock gains, rose 23% to $35.84 billion from $29.16 billion a year earlier.

For all of 2020, operating income fell 9% to $21.92 billion, while net income fell 48% to $81.42 billion.

Berkshire, whose shares trailed the broader market over the last decade and significantly in 2019 and 2020, repurchased about $9 billion of stock in the quarter, a sign Buffett considers his Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate undervalued.

For all of 2020, Berkshire said it bought back $24.7 billion of its own stock, topping its old record $5 billion in 2019.

“At a discount of 40% to intrinsic value, the repurchases looked extraordinarily compelling,” said Tom Russo, a partner at Gardner, Russo & Gardner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a longtime Berkshire shareholder. “Repurchases capture forever the benefits of Berkshire’s businesses for the remaining shareholders.”

Berkshire stock has risen 4.8% this year, beating the Standard & Poor’s 500’s 1.5% gain.

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