May 9, 2009

Berkshire Hathaway posts $1.5B loss

U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett's company posted a $1.5 billion loss in the first quarter, its first quarterly loss since 2001, documents show.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s poor results were down from a $940 million profit it posted in the first quarter of 2008 and was mainly due to Buffett's stock holdings in financial firms and weakness in his retailing and manufacturing properties, which are the sectors most sensitive to the broad U.S. economic downturn, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

On the positive side, Berkshire Hathaway's insurance businesses saw big gains, the newspaper said, with premiums jumping 32 percent from last year's first quarter to $8.2 billion, which the Journal said indicated the companies are aggressively writing policies even though the economy is ailing.

At last weekend's Berkshire's annual meeting in Omaha, Neb., Buffett didn't hold out much hope for improved performance even though the recession was showing signs of easing. He said, I guess I would almost be surprised if the opposite happened, if the world changed much over the remainder of the year.