Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Berkshire: A Hungry Mosquito?

Assuming you all have read Berkshire's annual report by now, here is a link to a related story (to what was a bad year) and which talks at the start about layoffs within Berkshire:

“Buffett gives a lot of autonomy to his managers, so he may not be the one who’s making those decisions,” Fuller said. Buffett didn’t respond to a request for comment left with spokeswoman Carrie Kizer.

Berkshire’s fourth-quarter net income fell 96 percent to $117 million, the firm said Feb. 28. Book value per share, a measure of assets minus liabilities, slipped 9.6 percent for all of 2008, the worst performance under Buffett’s watch, on the declining value of derivatives and the stock portfolio.

The number of employees at insurance subsidiaries slipped less than 1 percent to 28,188. MidAmerican Energy Co. employed 3,150 on Dec. 31, which is six fewer than a year earlier.

“We are fortunate that Berkshire’s two most important businesses - our insurance and utility groups - produce earnings that are not correlated to those of the general economy,” Buffett wrote. “Both businesses delivered outstanding results in 2008 and have excellent prospects.”

‘Hungry Mosquitoes’

Buffett told shareholders that he and Geico CEO Tony Nicely feel like “two hungry mosquitoes in a nudist camp” because of opportunities to increase sales at the unit. The insurer set a monthly sales record in January, he said.

In his letter to shareholders, Buffett predicted that the economy and stocks will rebound, and the best days for the U.S. are ahead.

“Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time,” Buffett wrote. “It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so.”

To read the whole article, head to Bloomberg, and enjoy.

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