Buffett upbeat on American business; Berkshire operating profit down | Reuters

Warren Buffett on Saturday mounted a forceful and upbeat defense of the prospects for American business, as his Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) reported a higher quarterly profit though operating income fell.

In his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, Buffett said investors “will almost certainly do well” by staying with the long term with a “collection of large, conservatively financed American businesses.”

Buffett puts Berkshire in that category, using the letter to tout the successes of many of his Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate’s more than 90 operating units.

These included businesses such as the BNSF railroad and Geico auto insurance that posted weaker results last quarter.

“American business — and consequently a basket of stocks — is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead,” Buffett wrote. “Ever-present naysayers may prosper by marketing their gloomy forecasts. But heaven help them if they act on the nonsense they peddle.”

For the fourth quarter, Berkshire’s net income rose to $6.29 billion, or $3,823 per Class A share, from $5.48 billion, or $3,333 per share, a year earlier, helped by a $1.1 billion increase in gains from investments and derivatives.

Operating profit fell 6 percent to $4.38 billion, or $2,665 per share, from $4.67 billion, or $2,843 per share.

Analysts on average had forecast operating profit of $2,716.60 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Book value per Class A share, reflecting assets minus liabilities and which Buffett calls a good measure of Berkshire’s intrinsic worth, rose 11 percent to $172,108.

For all of 2016, profit was virtually unchanged, dropping to $24.07 billion from $24.08 billion.

Operating profit rose just 1 percent to $17.58 billion, despite January’s $32.1 billion purchase of aircraft parts maker Precision Castparts Corp, Berkshire’s largest acquisition.

The company also owns dozens of stocks including Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), Wells…

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