Berkshire gain climbs 32 percent ladder, marking record year

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Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the conglomerate controlled by billionaire Warren Buffett, said fourth-quarter profit climbed 32 percent on investments and earnings from the company’s expanding stable of operating businesses.
Net income rose to $5.48 billion, or $3,333 a share, from $4.16 billion, or $2,529, a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Operating earnings, which exclude some investment results, were $2,843 a share, beating the average $2,814 estimate of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
The results cap another record year for Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer. Over the past five decades, he has built the Omaha, Nebraska-based company into a sprawling enterprise with a stock portfolio valued at more than $110 billion and interests in insurance, energy, manufacturing, media, retail and transportation.
While Berkshire’s insurance and investment results fluctuate widely, the company owns dozens of businesses that churn out steadier earnings. In recent years, profit from these units — including railroad BNSF and a collection of electric utilities — has become a bigger portion of the bottom line because of Buffett’s relentless dealmaking.
Berkshire bought a network of US car dealerships in 2015, and also struck one of its biggest deals ever: the $37.2 billion buyout of aerospace manufacturer Precision Castparts Corp. That transaction was completed after the fourth quarter. Buffett’s company said Saturday that it also expects to complete the acquisition of the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble Co. this month.
“We are getting a decent return on the capital we have deployed” for manufacturing businesses, a category that includes chemical company Lubrizol and toolmaker Iscar, Buffett said in his annual letter. “Earnings from the group should grow substantially in 2016 as Duracell and Precision Castparts enter the fold.”
Last year highlighted some of the challenges Buffett, 85, faces keeping his money-making machine moving forward. He made billions on an investment in the food industry.

, some of Buffett’s major stock holdings slumped. Berkshire’s own shares ended 2015 down 12 percent, compared with the 0.7 percent fall in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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