Berkshire Operating Profit Up 67%

Berkshire Hathaway Inc , the insurance and investment company controlled by Warren Buffett, on Friday posted a 67 percent increase in operating profit, helped by improved performance in insurance underwriting and non-insurance businesses.

First-quarter operating profit rose to $2.67 billion, or $1,615 per Class A share, from $1.59 billion, or $966 per share, a year earlier. Net income attributable to Berkshire shareholders more than doubled to $3.25 billion, or $1,966 per share, from $1.51 billion, or $917 per share, last year.

Analysts on average expected operating profit of $1,780 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Berkshire posted a $54 million insurance underwriting profit in the quarter. That compared with a year-earlier $821 million loss, when results were hurt by costs for earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and floods and a cyclone in Australia.

Results, however, were hurt by a $337 million loss on Texas Competitive Electric Holdings bonds, according to Berkshire's quarterly report.

Revenue rose 13 percent to $38.15 billion, and Berkshire ended the quarter with $37.83 billion of cash and equivalents.

Berkshire said profit from railroad operations, including the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp, rose 15 percent to $701 million.

Meanwhile, profit from manufacturing, service and retailing operations rose 53 percent to $854 million. That in part reflected Berkshire's $9 billion acquisition of the chemical company Lubrizol Corp.

Earlier Friday, senior executives within Berkshire said they were seeing signs of slow but steady economic growth as consumers increase spending.

Berkshire has roughly 80 operating units, including many consumer-oriented businesses that sell such things as apparel, furniture, ice cream and paint.

Buffett is expected on Saturday to welcome close to 40,000 shareholders to Berkshire's annual meeting in its hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

The company's Class A shares closed Friday up $150 at $121,950, and its Class B shares closed down 32 cents at $80.94. Berkshire released quarterly results after U.S. markets closed. (Reporting By Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)