Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting Saturday was dominated by somber topics as CEO Warren Buffett explained to about 40,000 shareholders how the company had been battered by a string of natural disasters.
Buffett assured the crowd at an Omaha convention center that Berkshire is strong enough to withstand the estimated $1.7 billion in insurance losses that drove profits down 58 percent in the first quarter.
Buffett previewed Berkshire’s earnings at the meeting, ahead of their scheduled release on Friday. He said the biggest factor in the earnings drop was about $1.7 billion in pretax losses related to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Australian floods and the New Zealand earthquake.
“We had probably the second-worst quarter for the insurance industry in terms of disasters around the globe,” Buffett said.
Buffett estimates that Berkshire will report $1.5 billion in net income, down from $3.6 billion last year. He did not offer earnings-per-share figures.