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Japan insurance losses slash Berkshire profits

by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) May 6, 2011
US investment king Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway reported a sharp plunge in first-quarter earnings Friday, hit heavily by insurance losses on Japan's earthquake-tsunami disaster.

Net earnings fell 56 percent to $1.51 billion from $3.63 billion a year earlier for the diversified investment house, long a favorite with small investors.

Earnings per the company's "A" shares -- which closed at $120,280.00 a share on Friday before the report was released -- was $917, compared to $2,272 a year earlier, the company said.

For the more commonly traded "B" shares, the per-share figure calculated to 61 cents.

At the company's annual shareholders' meeting in Omaha, Nebraska last week Buffet said that floods in Australia, an earthquake in New Zealand and Japan's massive earthquake-tsunami disaster, hit the company's re-insurance arm, which was expected to take a loss from underwriting for the first time in nine years.

But he also reported that Berkshire's companies, which span the clothing and insurance sectors -- and much more in between -- were starting to feel more optimistic about the US economic recovery.

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