Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) recently reported its second-quarter earnings, and it looks like the company’s operating businesses have rebounded quite nicely from the pandemic-hit second quarter of 2020. In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on Aug. 9, 2021, Fool.com contributor Matt Frankel, CFP, and Industry Focus host Jason Moser give investors a rundown of the key takeaways.
Jason Moser: Let’s jump into Berkshire Hathaway because over the weekend, we saw the company released second-quarter earnings. Berkshire, the nice thing about their earnings release is not a lot of that pomp and circumstance, it’s a 10-Q. You don’t get an 8K, you don’t get a transcript, you don’t get an earnings call. It’s just here’s what it is in fine filing fashion and keep on moving forward. You got to go in there and do a little bit of the work when it comes to digging into these Berkshire Hathaway earnings. But it seems like at least on the surface, the business is recovering nicely from what was a difficult 2020.
Matt Frankel: Yeah. You’re right. Warren Buffett and his team seem pretty much just put the release out there, and say, “See you at the annual meeting next year.” They are one of the rare companies that report their earnings on Saturdays. Every year earnings report of theirs comes out on a Saturday morning and they do that by design. It’s so the investors have a chance to digest the information outside of market hours. You always hear about these stocks like spiking 20% on earnings day and then end being lower or having to be halted a few times because of they’re so volatile in earnings day. That’s not an issue with Berkshire because one they’re a big company and don’t tend to have volatile moves. Two, they intentionally give people time to digest earnings, what a concept.
Frankel: On the headline numbers, earnings were up about 7% year over year, but Warren Buffett himself tells investors not to pay attention to the earnings per share number. The reason is we all know Berkshire’s the bulk of its value is in the stock portfolio. Purchase stock portfolio is worth over $300 billion, so it’s about half the company right now. Those earnings results reflects the unrealized gains and losses from the stock portfolio. For example, if Berkshire’s Apple investment went up $10 billion over the past year, that’s reflected on a per-share basis in its earnings. Even though it hasn’t really made that money yet until Berkshire hits the sell button someday. It’s not really an accurate reflection of how much the company is actually making. For that we need to kind of get past the headline number, and getting the Berkshire’s operating businesses. On the operating earnings, you mentioned they recovered nicely from COVID. You could certainly see it in this number, operating earnings, meaning that its businesses owned were up 21% year over year.
Frankel: Those are businesses like GEICO, Duracell, Berkshire’s utilities businesses, all the consumer products businesses they own, Clayton Homes.
Moser: The railroads.
Frankel: The railroads did really well. The railroads, utility, and energy segment were the best-performing part. Their earnings from that segment were up 27% year over year, which is pretty impressive. During the COVID lockdowns, they didn’t have the need to transport as much around the country. Utilities and energy performed well no matter what. People still pay their electric bills during the pandemic for the most of time.
Moser: Oh, yeah. Got to keep the power on. Now more than ever everybody needs more power and more connectivity than ever before.
Frankel: GEICO did just fine during the pandemic because even though people weren’t driving, I think they were one of the ones that gave a discount because people weren’t driving during the pandemic.
Moser: They did. We got the same thing. We’ve been with Progressive for 15, 20 years now or something like that. Progressive had the same thing. We got a little bit of a rebate which was nice.
Frankel: At the same time, people weren’t driving, so there were fewer claims Berkshire had to pay out.
Moser: Exactly. That’s good point.
Frankel: They pass some of that onto their customers which is nice. The insurance premiums Berkshire collective were up 10% year over year, which is to be expected. That’s a slower growth because that was a very resilient business during the pandemic. There’s that. Got to remember this whole quarter’s being compared to the second quarter of 2020, which is a terrible comparison for any company. Berkshire has over 60 businesses that it owns in addition to its stock portfolio. Pretty much all of its businesses were affected to one extent or another. Some were absolutely devastated by the pandemic.
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