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Run by the iconic Warren Buffett since 1965, Berkshire has grown from a textile manufacturing company to now include 80-plus businesses that run the gamut from insurance to railroads to utilities to ice cream. The Omaha, Neb.-based conglomerate consists of some $117.5 billion of a variety of stocks.
Berkshire's 2013 profit hit $19.5 billion – up 32% from 2012's $14.8 billion profit.
"America's best days lie ahead," Buffett said in his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders released March 1. "Charlie and I have always considered a 'bet' on ever-rising U.S. prosperity to be very close to a sure thing," he added, referring to his 90-year-old Berkshire confidant and right-hand man, Vice Chairman Charlie Munger. "Though we invest abroad as well, the mother lode of opportunity resides in America."
Buffett confirmed he continues to hunt for more sizable ("elephant") acquisitions, after two recent big American purchases: $5.6 billion for Nevada utility NV Energy and $12.25 billion for ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co.
Following are highlights from Q4 and full fiscal 2013, as well as key comments from the Oracle of Omaha.
Behind Berkshire's (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) Best-Ever Full-Year Profit
- For Q4 2013, net profit rose roughly 10% to $4.99 billion, or $3,035 per Class A share. Operating profit rose 34% to $3.78 billion, or $2,296.
- Full-year profit climbed 32, or $11,850 per Class A share. Operating profit jumped 20% to $15.16 billion, or $9,211 per share.
- Berkshire ended 2013 with $48.19 billion in cash and equivalents.
- Berkshire was a net seller of stock in Q4 2013, selling $191 million more than it bought.
- Berkshire's gain in net worth during 2013 was $34.2 billon. Over the last 49 years (since Buffett and Munger took over), Berkshire's value has ballooned from $19 to $134,943. That's an astounding rate of 19.7% compounded annually.