Berkshire Hathaway Reports Profit of $97 Billion Last Year, a Record

Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run for decades by Warren E. Buffett, recorded its highest-ever annual profit last year. But its chief executive found reason to blame government regulation for hurting the results of some of its biggest businesses.

In his letter to investors that traditionally accompanies the annual report, Mr. Buffett also paid tribute to Charlie Munger, his longtime lieutenant and Berkshire’s vice chairman until his death in November at age 99.

The company — whose divisions include insurance, the BNSF railroad, an expansive power utility, Brooks running shoes, Dairy Queen and See’s candy — disclosed $97.1 billion in net earnings last year, a sharp swing from its $22 billion loss in 2022 because of investment declines.

Berkshire also reported $37.4 billion in operating earnings, the financial metric that Mr. Buffett prefers because it excludes paper investment gains and losses, for the year, up 21 percent from 2022. (Investors often see Berkshire as a bellwether of the American economy, given the breadth of its business.)

Those gains arose from the powerful engine at the heart of Berkshire, its vast insurance operations that include Geico car insurance and reinsurance. The division reported $5.3 billion in after-tax earnings for 2023, reversing from a loss in the previous year thanks to fewer significant catastrophic events, rate increases and fewer claims at Geico.

The business that Berkshire is best known for, stock investments using the enormous cash that the insurance business throws off, also performed well last year. Investment income jumped nearly 48 percent amid rising market valuations. (About 79 percent of the conglomerate’s investment income comes from just five companies: Apple, Bank of America, American Express, Coca-Cola and Chevron.)

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