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Berkshire Hathaway Posts Quarterly Loss of $1.53 Billion

Posted on 11 May 2009

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Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. posted its worst loss in at least two decades as the billionaire chairman worked to recover from a "major mistake" of buying ConocoPhillips shares with oil prices near their peak.

The first-quarter net loss of $1.53 billion, or $990 a share, compares with profit of $940 million, or $607, in the same period a year earlier, the Omaha, Nebraska-based firm said yesterday in a statement. Write-downs on derivatives tied to corporate-debt indexes cost the company about $1.3 billion and Berkshire took a $1.9 billion charge on oil producer ConocoPhillips, contributing to its first net loss since 2001.

Berkshire’s insurance underwriting operations reported net underwriting gains of $219 million, a 21% increase from the year-earlier period. Among those operations, General Re Corp. reported a pretax underwriting loss of $16 million compared with $42 million in underwriting income for the comparable quarter a year ago; Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group reported $203 million in pretax underwriting gains, a sevenfold increase from $29 million a year earlier; and the Berkshire Hathaway Primary Group reported $4 million in pretax underwriting gains, down 84%.