Operating earnings, Buffett’s preferred measure of profitability, soared 45% in the fourth quarter to $ 7.3 billion and rose 25% for the full year to about $ 27.5 billion.
The company added it bought back $ 6.9 billion worth of stock during the quarter, a move which also helped to boost its earnings per share.
Apple is by far Berkshire’s largest holding and the stock enjoyed a total return (including dividends) of 35% last year. Buffett called Apple CEO Tim Cook “brilliant” in the letter.
Buffett said in the letter investors might be surprised to learn how much Berkshire depends on the American industrial economy for its success. Berkshire also owns Duracell batteries, Benjamin Moore paints, homebuilder Clayton and flooring company Shaw, for example.
“Many people perceive Berkshire as a large and somewhat strange collection of financial assets. In truth, Berkshire owns and operates more US-based ‘infrastructure’ assets – classified on our balance sheet as property, plant and equipment – than are owned and operated by any other American corporation, “Buffett wrote.
Buffett also pointed out Berkshire Hathaway paid $ 3.3 billion in federal income taxes last year as well as “substantial state and foreign taxes.”
“‘I gave at the office’ is an unassailable assertion when made by Berkshire shareholders,” Buffett joked.
Annual meeting is back in Nebraska
Many of those shareholders are expected to descend on Omaha during the last weekend of April for Berkshire’s first annual shareholder meeting with attendees since 2019.
The meeting will take place April 30. Berkshire said Saturday Buffett and fellow vice chairman Charlie Munger; Ajit Jain, who oversees the insurance operations; and Greg Abel, who oversees the conglomerate’s non-insurance businesses, will be there in person to answer questions.
The meeting will also be webcast on CNBC. Yahoo Finance had been the online home of the meeting previously.