* Operating profit tops forecasts
* Results benefit from Burlington Northern, Geico
* Cash stake drops, reflecting Heinz purchase
By Jonathan Stempel and Jennifer Ablan
Aug 2 Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc
on Friday said second-quarter profit rose 46
percent, boosted by improved demand in such businesses as car
insurance, energy and railroads, as well as gains from
investments and derivatives.
Operating results topped analyst forecasts, reflecting how
many of Berkshire's more than 80 businesses are benefiting from
growth, however modest, in the U.S. economy.
"It's about as good as you could expect," said Jeff
Matthews, a Berkshire shareholder and author of "Secrets in
Plain Sight: Business and Investing Secrets of Warren Buffett."
"Berkshire's earnings are very similar to the economy - not
shooting the lights out but still growing."
Buffett, who turns 83 later this month, has run Omaha,
Nebraska-based Berkshire since 1965, and favors businesses with
consistent earnings power.
In June, he spent $12.3 billion to buy part of H.J. Heinz
Co, the maker of ketchup and Ore-Ida potato products. A month
earlier, the world's fourth-richest person told shareholders at
that in looking for companies to buy, "we're going to find most
of our opportunities in the United States."
Quarterly net income for Berkshire rose to $4.54 billion, or
$2,763 per Class A share, from $3.11 billion, or $1,882 per
share, a year earlier.
Operating profit rose 5 percent to $3.92 billion, or $2,384
per Class A share, from $3.72 billion, or $2,252 per share.
Analysts on average expected operating profit of $2,170 per
share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 16 percent from a year ago to $44.69 billion.
Book value per Class A share, Buffett's preferred measure of
growth, rose 2 percent from the end of March to $122,900.
BURLINGTON NORTHERN, GEICO
Profit rose 10 percent at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe
railroad to $884 million as higher revenue from shipping
consumer products, industrial products and coal offset lower
revenue from agricultural products.
Rising prices and higher customer loads helped drive a 10
percent increase in profit from its MidAmerican Energy utilities
and energy unit to $279 million.
Meanwhile, pretax underwriting gains more than doubled at
the Geico car insurance unit to $336 million, as premiums earned
grew by 11 percent while underwriting expenses fell.
Businesses benefiting from growing sales included the
NetJets corporate plane unit, the Clayton Homes manufactured
housing unit, and the Forest River recreational vehicle unit.
Other businesses fared less well. Underwriting gains in
reinsurance operations, including General Re, declined in part
from catastrophe losses tied to European floods.
Berkshire also said growing price competition and
"relatively sluggish customer demand in certain markets" hurt
earnings at its Iscar metalworking, Lubrizol specialty chemical
and Fruit of the Loom underwear businesses.
HEINZ REDUCES BERKSHIRE CASH STAKE
The quarter also included $622 million of net gains from
investments and derivatives, compared with a year-earlier $612
million net loss.
Accounting rules require Berkshire to report these sums with
its earnings, and Buffett believes the amounts in any given
quarter are often meaningless.
The company's cash stake shrank during the quarter to $35.7
billion from $49.1 billion, largely reflecting the purchase of
Heinz by Berkshire and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital.
Another $5.6 billion in cash will go toward the purchase of
Nevada utility NV Energy Inc by MidAmerican Energy,
which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.
And this week, building supply unit MiTek Industries said it
bought Benson Industries LLC, which designs curtain wall systems
for buildings such as One World Trade Center and the United
Nations Secretariat, for an undisclosed price.
Berkshire also owns tens of billions of dollars of common
stocks such as Coca-Cola Co, International Business
Machines Corp and Wells Fargo & Co.
In Friday trading, Berkshire Class A shares closed up $800
at $176,500. Its Class B shares rose 54 cents to $117.82.