Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has retreated from one if its riskier areas of business: reinsurance for catastrophic property damage.
Reinsurance means selling insurance to insurers themselves. That has been a profitable business for Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group the past few years, The Wall Street Journal reported.
That coverage, including areas such as hurricane damage, brought Berkshire as much as $2.2 billion in a year that saw no major storms.
But Berkshire faces a few issues now. Its cash hoard fell to just under $20 billion as of March 31, the lowest level in years, after Buffett dove into the stock market last year to purchase blue-chip companies at bargain-basement prices.
In addition, Berkshire has been hampered by a credit rating downgrade, losses that include a derivatives hit and by the stubborn recession.
All those factors probably led to the pullback from “cat” reinsurance, as it’s known in the industry.
At the company's annual meeting in May, Buffett said it’s "doing less natural risk in terms of hurricanes because...we don't have as much excess capital as we had a couple years ago."
Many investors still have faith in Buffett.
Justin Fuller, a partner at Midway Capital Research & Management, told the Guardian newspaper that Berkshire’s downgrade may have been unjustified.
"When people start to throw him under a bus and say he's lost his touch, that's usually a signal to me to be buying Berkshire Hathaway stock," he said.
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