Berkshire Reports Big Jump in Earnings

But, as always, the company warned that it considers paper gains or losses on its investments “meaningless” for understanding its underlying financial health, given how volatile they can be. On the company’s preferred metric of operating earnings, which excludes many of those investment gains, Berkshire earned $8.07 billion for the quarter, up 12 percent from the previous year.

Other core parts of the Berkshire machine reported more mixed results.

Its insurance operations reported $911 million in net underwriting earnings, bolstered in particular by its Geico division, which benefited from higher policy premiums and fewer claims. It also reduced spending on its famed advertising campaigns.

Berkshire’s mammoth BNSF railroad, one of the biggest freight networks in the nation, disclosed a slight drop in net earnings, to $1.2 billion. The company said that while the business benefited from charging higher fuel surcharges and rates per car, it was hit by rising fuel costs and lower shipments.

Its energy and power utilities division reported a sharp drop in net earnings, as higher operating costs offset an increase in revenues and customer usage.

Other businesses whose performance fell in the quarter included its building products group, with its home-construction company, Clayton Homes, suffering from a housing market slowdown brought by a rise in interest rates, as well as its consumer product companies like the Forest River line of recreational vehicles and Fruit of the Loom underwear. “The decline in apparel revenue,” Berkshire said, “was driven by lower volume, as order delays and cancellations persisted in response to the elevated inventory levels of retail business customers.”

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