NEW YORK: Buffett upbeat on American business; Berkshire operating profit down Friday but so would you be if on Saturday you could take a $1.6-Billion bite out of Apple after warning investors to stick to low yield index funds – @AceFinanceNews

#AceFinanceReport – Feb.26: Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s (BRKa.N) gain on its investment in Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) stands at more than $1.6 billion after shares of the iPhone maker surged.

Berkshire Hathaway gains $1.6 billion from its huge bite of Apple The stake of 61.2 million shares was acquired last year for $6.75 billion, an average of about $110.17 apiece, according to the annual report Saturday from Berkshire, which is led by billionaire chairman Warren Buffett.

The holding was valued at more than $8.3 billion as of Friday’s $136.66 closing price.

Berkshire became one of the top 10 Apple investors in 2016, taking a stake of more than 9 million shares in the first quarter and then accelerating purchases in the last three months of the year.

The Apple investment appears to reflect much of the $12 billion of stock that Buffett said he had bought between the Nov. 8 Presidential election and the end of January.

Warren Buffett urges investors to stick with index funds Billionaire Warren Buffett, whose stock picks over several decades have turned Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) into one of the most successful conglomerates, delivered another black eye to the investment management industry on Saturday, saying investors should “stick with low-cost index funds.”

When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients,” Buffett, widely considered one of the world’s best investors, said in his annual letter to shareholders.

“Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds.”

Buffett has often said he believes most stock investors are better off with low-cost index funds than paying higher fees to managers who often underperform.

During the financial crisis, Buffett bet a founder of the asset management company Protege Partners LLC $1 million that a Vanguard S&P 500 stock index fund would outperform several groups of hedge funds of over the 10 years through 2017. The index fund is up 85.4 percent, Buffett said, while the hedge fund groups are up between 2.9 percent and 62.8 percent.

On Saturday, Buffett said the figures leave “no doubt” that he will win the bet. He plans to donate the money to Girls Inc of Omaha, a charity.

Buffett upbeat on American business; Berkshire operating profit down Warren Buffett on Saturday mounted a forceful and upbeat defence 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 (£5.04 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.

Buffett has run Berkshire since 1965. The company also owns dozens of stocks including Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) and the four biggest U.S. airlines, and more than one-fourth of Kraft Heinz Co (KHC.O).

PRAISE FOR AJIT JAIN

Profit from insurance operations rose 7 percent to $1.44 billion, as underwriting gains at the Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group more than offset an underwriting loss at auto insurer Geico, where claims for losses have been rising.

The reinsurance business is run by Ajit Jain, widely considered a potential successor for Buffett, 86, as Berkshire’s chief executive. Buffett said Jain has created “tens of billions of dollars of value” since joining Berkshire in 1986.

“If there were ever to be another Ajit and you could swap me for him, don’t hesitate,” Buffett wrote. “Make the trade!”

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.

That sum has since risen to more than $100 billion, likely reflecting a giant transaction last month with the insurer American International Group Inc. (AIG.N)

Profit at BNSF, Berkshire’s largest purchase before Precision Castparts, fell 8 percent to $993 million.

Though the railroad has been hurt by falling coal and industrial volumes, Buffett said society “will forever need huge investments” in transportation, and BNSF is well-served by a strong balance sheet, recent capital upgrades, and a growing emphasis on clean technology.

“Charlie and I love our railroad, which was one of our best purchases,” Buffett said, referring to longtime Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger.

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

In Friday trading, Berkshire’s Class A shares closed at $255,040, and its Class B shares closed at $170.22. Both were record closing highs.

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.

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