Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run by Warren E. Buffett, reported $11.7 billion in net earnings in the first quarter on Saturday, swinging to a profit from a year ago as the paper value of its investment gains soared.
Using Berkshire’s preferred financial metric, operating earnings, the company showed a nearly 19 percent year-on-year gain as its wide array of subsidiaries — from energy production to the BNSF railroad to consumer brands — improved their performances.
Berkshire reported $2.8 billion in investment gains during the quarter, compared with $54.5 billion in losses in the 2020 quarter.
The conglomerate also bought back $6.6 billion in stock during the quarter, as Mr. Buffett continues to spend his company’s enormous cash hoard — currently more than $145 billion — on repurchasing Berkshire shares rather than striking huge acquisitions.
The earnings report came hours before Berkshire prepares for its annual investor meeting, which for decades saw Mr. Buffett’s faithful followers fly to the company’s hometown, Omaha, Neb., to celebrate one of the world’s best-known investors.
This year, however, it will again be held virtually, bowing to pandemic travel and gathering restrictions. And for the first time, it will be held not in Omaha, but in Los Angeles, where Charles T. Munger, Berkshire’s 97-year-old vice chairman, lives.
Berkshire’s annual meetings are known for offering a forum for the company’s shareholders to ask the 90-year-old Mr. Buffett anything on their minds.
Among the topics that are expected to come up this year are both perennial subjects like politics and potential takeover targets for Berkshire — and more uncomfortable topics for Mr. Buffett, like efforts to push corporate America to take more action on environmental and social issues. Mr. Buffett urged shareholders this year to reject proposals to compel Berkshire to disclose more about its subsidiaries’ efforts to address climate change and workplace diversity, raising questions about whether his approach is out of step.