Gerald Miller | CNBC
Berkshire Hathaway‘s operating profits fell during the fourth quarter as inflationary pressures weighed on the conglomerate’s businesses.
Berkshire Hathaway’s operating earnings totaled $6.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, a release read Saturday. That’s down 7.9% from the year-earlier period when profits totaled $7.285 billion. Operating earnings refers to the total profits made from the businesses owned by the conglomerate.
Earnings from Berkshire’s railroad, utilities and energy businesses came in at $2.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, which is slightly down from the year-ago period. Meanwhile, the firm’s insurance-underwriting business fell to $244 million in the fourth quarter of 2022, down from $372 million the year-earlier period.
For the year, the conglomerate’s operating earnings totaled $30.793 billion. That’s up 12.2% from $27.455 billion in 2021.
Meanwhile, Berkshire used $2.855 billion to buy back shares in the fourth quarter. That’s lower than the year-earlier period when share repurchases totaled more than $6 billion but more than the third quarter’s repurchase total of around $1 billion. For the year, Berkshire bought back nearly $8 billion in common stock.
Despite this, Berkshire’s cash hoard grew to $128.651 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022. That’s up from nearly $109 billion in the third quarter.
Buffett said in his annual shareholder letter that Berkshire will continue to hold a “boatload” of cash and U.S. Treasury bills along with its myriad of businesses. He specified that future CEOs in the company will have a “significant part” of their net worth in Berkshire shares.
BRK in 2023
“We will also avoid behavior that could result in any uncomfortable cash needs at inconvenient times, including financial panics and unprecedented insurance losses,” Buffett wrote. “And yes, our shareholders will continue to save and prosper by retaining earnings. At Berkshire, there will be no finish line.”
Overall earnings dropped to $18.164 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, a 54% decline from the same quarter in the year prior. These earnings reflect Berkshire’s fluctuating equity investments.
For the full year, overall earnings tumbled 125% to a loss of $22.819 billion in 2022, down from earnings of $89.795 billion in 2021. That number is largely a byproduct of tumultuous 2022 market, with the company reporting a $53.6 billion loss from investments and derivatives.
Regardless, Buffett often gives little weight to changes in the firm’s quarterly or annual results.
“The amount of investment gains/losses in any given quarter is usually meaningless and delivers figures for net earnings (losses) per share that can be extremely misleading to investors who have little or no knowledge of accounting rules,” read a statement from the release.
Berkshire shares are down nearly 1.6% in 2023.