Berkshire Hathaway Reports Surge in Operating Earnings, Record Cash Levels in Q4 2023

Berkshire Hathaway on Saturday reported a substantial increase in operating earnings in the fourth quarter, thanks to significant gains in its insurance business, while its cash pile expanded to record levels.

The Omaha-based conglomerate posted operating earnings — which refers to profits from businesses across insurance, railroads, and utilities — of $8.481 billion in the quarter ending December. That’s 28% above the $6.625 billion from the year-ago period.

For the full year 2023, that brought operating earnings up to $37.350 billion, up 17% from $30.853 billion in the prior year. Berkshire also held $167.6 billion in cash in the fourth quarter, a record level that surpasses the $157.2 billion the conglomerate held in the prior quarter.

Net underwriting earnings of $5.428 billion.
Geico reports a profitable year with net underwriting earnings of $5.428 billion.

Berkshire Class A shares have rallied roughly 16% this year.

Berkshire Hathaway Class A shares Geico, the auto insurer considered Buffett’s “favorite child,” reported a profitable year, with net underwriting earnings of $5.428 billion in 2023. The improved earnings were driven by premium rate increases and lower claims last year. Meanwhile, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) reported full-year net earnings of $5.087 billion last year, a 14% drop from $5.946 billion in the prior year.

Insurance underwriting surged to $848 million in the fourth quarter, spiking 430% from $160 million in the year-ago period, driving operating earnings for the conglomerate. Insurance investment income also rose to $2.759 billion quarterly, up 37% from $2.0 billion in the same period in the year prior.

Berkshire's cash pile hits record $167.6 billion
Berkshire’s cash pile hits record $167.6 billion in the fourth quarter.

But operating earnings from railroads fell in the fourth quarter, as it did in utilities and energy. Operating earnings from railroads dropped to $1.355 billion, down from $1.469 billion a year ago. Operating earnings for utilities and energy fell to $632 million, down from $739 million the prior year.

Overall Berkshire earnings, which include the company’s investment gains from publicly traded companies, more than doubled during the quarter from the year-earlier period, reaching $37.57 billion. For the full year, overall profits came in at $96.22 billion. The conglomerate, however, included its usual disclaimer advising investors to look past fluctuations in quarterly results.

“We believe that investment gains and losses on investments in equity securities, whether realized from dispositions or unrealized from changes in market prices, are generally meaningless in understanding our reported periodic results or evaluating the economic performance of our operating businesses,” read a statement in the annual report.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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