Warren Buffett sticks to business, avoids politics in letter

David Kass, a Berkshire shareholder and business professor at the University of Maryland, said Saturday that Buffett may be referring to recent stock sales "but more importantly, looking to the future with providing the flexibility to sell long-time holdings such as Coca-Cola or American Express".

Operating earnings, which exclude some investment results, fell to $4.38 billion, or $2,665 a Class A share, from $4.67 billion, or $2,843 a Class A share, in the year prior.

Buffett says share repurchases are not 'un-american, ' even though Berkshire has not done any repurchases recently.

Berkshire Hathaway owns a collection of companies in the fields of insurance, utilities, railroad, manufacturing and retail.

At year-end, that privilege would have delivered Berkshire a profit of $10.5 billion, Buffett wrote, noting that Berkshire can use its preferred shares to satisfy the $5 billion cost of exercising the warrant.

Jain joined Berkshire in 1986, and Buffett put him in charge of National Indemnity's small, struggling reinsurance operation.

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Manufactured homes are often bought by people with low credit scores and incomes, with financial profiles that Buffett said can be easily damaged by divorce or death.

The insurance units ended 2016 with $91.6 billion of float, the amount of premiums held before claims are paid, and which Buffett uses to fund acquisitions and other investments.

Berkshire's airline investments suggest that Buffett has overcome his two-decade aversion to the sector after an unhappy - though, he has said, profitable - investment in US Air Group.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, another major business, posted a 2 percent increase in profit, to $432 million.

The shares outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index including dividends by 11.4 percentage points in 2016, after lagging by 13.9 percentage points in 2015.

  • Delia Davidson