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Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings rise ahead of the annual meeting

(Omaha) Warren Buffett’s company announced that its first-quarter earnings rose along with the paper value of its portfolio, bringing some good news to the thousands of shareholders who filled a grandstand Saturday to hear the billionaire and many other top CEOs answer questions.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Chloe Lin, who came from Singapore to attend the meeting for the first time and learn from Mr. Buffett and his longtime investment partner, Charlie Munger.

The Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting always draws a crowd of people who admire both investors and want to hear all the wisdom they have to offer about recent events and life lessons. And since both men are in their 90s this year, some of the crowd feel the urgency to attend now while the two men are still around.

“Charlie Munger is 99. I just wanted to see him in person. He’s on my to-do list. I have to come while I can,” said Sheraton Wu, 40, of Vancouver. »

One of the few concessions Mr. Buffett makes at his age is that he no longer visits the showroom before a meeting. In years past, he was reportedly full of contributors trying to take a picture with him while a team of security guards worked to manage the crowd. Mr. Munger has been using a wheelchair for several years, but both men still have mental refinement.

To address concerns about their age, Berkshire Hathaway showed a series of question segments about a succession of past meetings dating back to their first filmed meeting in 1994.

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Two years ago, Mr. Buffett finally announced that Greg Appel would eventually replace him as CEO even though there were no plans to retire. Mr. Abel already oversees all of Berkshire Hathaway’s non-insurance business.

But not everyone present at the meeting is impressed. Outside the arena, Berkshire Hathaway NetJets pilots protested the lack of a new contract and pro-life groups carried signs declaring “Buffett’s billions kill millions” in order to oppose his many charitable donations to abortion rights groups.

Berkshire Hathaway said Saturday morning that it earned $35.5 billion, or $24,377 per Class A share, in the first quarter. That’s more than 6 times last year’s $5.58 billion, or $3,784 per share.

But Buffett has long warned that these net numbers can be misleading for Berkshire Hathaway, because wild fluctuations in the value of his investments — most of which are rarely sold — skew earnings. During the quarter, Berkshire sold just 1.7 billion shares while posting a paper investment profit of 27.4 billion.

Part of this year’s investment gains included a $2.4 billion raise related to Berkshire Hathaway’s planned acquisition of a majority stake in truck-stop company Pilot Travel Centers in January.

Buffett says Berkshire Hathaway’s operating profit, which excludes investments, is a better measure of the company’s performance. By that metric, Berkshire Hathaway’s operating profit rose nearly 13% to $8.065 billion from $7.16 billion a year ago.