BEIJING, May 5 -- Billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc said first-quarter profit declined 64 percent as falling rates reduced returns from insurance operations. The company had 991 million U.S. dollars in investment losses as it marked down the value of derivative contracts.
Net income decreased to 940 million, or 607 dollars a share, from 2.6 billion dollars a year earlier, the Nebraska-based company said. Operating earnings, which exclude investment losses, were 1,247 dollars a share, lagging behind the 1,430 dollars average estimate of three analysts compiled by Bloomberg News. "Berkshire Hathaway has a significant risk posed on derivative contracts," said Charles Hamilton, an analyst at FTN Midwest Securities Corp, in a Bloomberg Television interview. "We've seen some of those derivatives come back to bite them." Buffett is looking to acquire businesses in Europe and is adding to holdings of consumer-products companies as competition forces down insurance rates in the U.S. Berkshire, which owns National Indemnity, General Re Corp and Geico Corp, typically gets about half its profit from insurance. Profit from underwriting insurance policies fell 70 percent to 181 million dollars. Pretax underwriting profit at Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group, which sells catastrophe coverage, dropped 95 percent to 29 million dollars. (Source: Shanghai Daily)