Berkshire Hathaway Re/Insurance Profit Falls 30% in Q3

By | November 7, 2016

Berkshire Hathaway reported a 10.5 percent drop in operating profit for its insurance and reinsurance operations during the third quarter, with underwriting income falling 34 percent.

While General Re reported an increase in pretax underwriting income of more than $100 million, an overall underwriting loss at the Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance unit and a $120 million drop in GEICO’s underwriting profit for the quarter, pulled total third-quarter underwriting profit for insurance and reinsurance operations down more than 30 percent from third-quarter 2015. Underwriting results for Berkshire Hathaway Primary operations, including Berkshire Hathaway Specialty, GUARD Group, and Applied Underwriters, among other companies, stayed relatively flat, coming in at $190 million before taxes.

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Focusing on the property/casualty side of the business, earned premiums increased for the primary businesses—nearly 12 percent for GEICO and 14 percent for Berkshire Hathaway Primary in the quarter. While reinsurance P/C premiums fell 10.8 percent overall, the earned premium drop for Gen Re P/C was just under 6.0 percent, and Gen Re’s combined ratio came in under 90.0. A lack of significant catastrophe losses and a $160 million takedown of prior-year reserves on property reinsurance business contributed to the result.

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The $74 million loss for Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance shown on the chart above combines a $40 million profit for P/C business and $114 million in underwriting losses for retroactive business.

Berkshire Hathaway’s primary operations reported the lowest combined ratio of the four major segments of Berkshire’s insurance and reinsurance businesses, at 88.3.

Storm losses and increased claim severities explained part of the movement in GEICO’s combined ratio, which ticked up 2.3 points despite of the beneficial effects of premium rate increases.

Results for all four P/C insurance and reinsurance units for the first nine months are summarized in the chart below.

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Together with results from life insurance and reinsurance operations, underwriting income total $409 million before taxes and $272 million after taxes across the group—a 34 percent drop from the prior third quarter. A bump up in investment income for insurance and reinsurance operations—1.2 percent to $850 million after taxes—pulled total operating income up over $1 billion for insurance and reinsurance companies. While the $1.1 billion was 10.5 percent lower than last year’s third quarter, operating income for non-insurance businesses pushed the total for the conglomerate led by Warren Buffett up to $4.9 billion, 6.6 percent above last year. Manufacturing businesses, with $1.7 billion of after-tax operating income for the quarter, accounted for most of the gain.

On the bottom line, Berkshire Hathaway’s net income, which includes investment and derivative gains and losses, came in at $7.2 billion. The figure represented a 24 percent drop from last year’s third-quarter, when $9.4 billion of net income included a $4.4 billion gain related to an investment in Kraft Heinz (recognized on July 2, 2015, in connection with the merger of Kraft Foods and H.J. Heinz).

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