Berkshire energy chief Abel receives $17.5 million compensation

(Reuters) - Gregory Abel, chief executive of the energy unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, was awarded $17.52 million in compensation last year, mainly in the form of a bonus, a regulatory filing shows.

Abel, 54, received a $15 million bonus under a performance incentive plan at Berkshire Hathaway Energy, where he has been chief executive since 2008 and chairman since 2011. He also got a $1 million salary plus $1.52 million of other awards.

The total amount was down from $40.77 million in 2015, which included $39.5 million of incentive and bonus pay, and made Abel one of the best-paid U.S. executives.

Many investors and analysts consider Abel a top candidate to succeed Buffett, 86, as Berkshire’s chief executive. Abel also sits on the board of food company Kraft Heinz Co, controlled by Berkshire and Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital.

Buffett’s compensation is normally disclosed in March. The world’s second-richest person takes a $100,000 salary for running Berkshire. His total compensation was $470,244 in 2015, mainly reflecting the cost of security to keep him safe.

Berkshire owns 90 percent of Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

Its profit from the unit, which consists of utilities, natural gas pipelines, other energy businesses and a real estate brokerage, rose 7 percent in 2016 to $2.29 billion.

Results benefited as lower fuel prices boosted margins at PacifiCorp, which runs a regulated utility in several western U.S. states, while acquisitions and rising home prices boosted profit at the real estate brokerage.

Though Buffett did not mention Abel by name in his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders on Saturday, he said Berkshire Hathaway Energy owns assets that are “of major importance to our country” and enjoys an “ever-widening diversity of earnings streams,” including from wind energy.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio