Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway posts record loss on coronavirus, but operating profit rises

Berkshire Hathaway Inc pauses while playing bridge as part of the company annual meeting weekend in Omaha

Buffett's Berkshire posts nearly $50 billion loss on coronavirus, operating profit rises

Hard-hit by the market rout surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company of Warren Buffett, has reported first-quarter net losses of almost $50 billion, it reported Saturday.

Berkshire posted a net loss of $49.7 billion last quarter, a sharp swing from its net earnings of $21.6 billion in the first quarter of 2019.

Just over a year ago, the firm posted what was until now its largest loss because of difficulties at its Kraft Heinz unit, where sales were hit hard in as shoppers increasingly shunned processed foods, The company posted a more than $25 billion net loss in the fourth quarter of 2018 as it wrote down that position.

Quarterly operating profit, which Buffett considers a better performance measure, rose 6% to $5.87 billion, or about $3,624 per Class A share $5.56 billion, or about $3,388 per share.

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Berkshire is sitting on a pile of more than $137 billion cash because Buffett has struggled to find major acquisitions for the company recently.

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The company's overall revenue rose slightly from the year-ago quarter, to $61.3 billion. The shift reflected $US54.5 billion in investment losses, compared to a $US15.5 billion gain in the same period a year ago.

Several of its businesses including railroads, utilities, and insurance have been deemed essential and allowed to continue operating, but their revenues "slowed considerably" in April.

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Yahoo Finance is the exclusive online host of the 2020 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting which takes place on Saturday, May 2nd.

Some analysts and longtime Berkshire stockholders say numerous beaten-down companies over the past month are the types of firms that don't fit Berkshire's investment criteria.

Vice Chairman Charlie Munger told The Wall Street Journal last month that a few small Berkshire businesses might close altogether.

Investors now are wondering whether Berkshire will look to invest even more in top US firms in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Berkshire Hathaway now owns large stakes in top American blue-chip companies Apple, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, and Kraft Heinz.

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