Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway could pay a dividend in the next 12 to 18 months, according to a report in the Jan.24 issue of Barron's.
Berkshire had $30 billion in cash in its insurance units as of Sept.30.
It could have nearly $50 billion by year end, according to the report.
Berkshire's operating profit after taxes is on track for a record $12 billion to $13 billion in 2011, buoyed in part by Berkshire's purchase of the Burlington Northern railroad, Barron's wrote.
It is also likely that Berkshire's investments in Goldman Sachs, General Electric and others — made during the financial crisis — could be repaid.
Such an influx of cash could prompt Berkshire to begin paying a dividend in the next year to year and a half, Barron's wrote — especially if Buffett fails to find another large investment.
Berkshire hasn't paid a dividend since Buffett took control in 1965. Instead, it has re-invested its profits.
However, the extra cash, rising asset and equity values, and Buffett's impending retirement could make a dividend an attractive option, Barron's wrote.
Decreasing Berkshire's cash pile ahead of Buffett's retirement would remove some of the pressure on Buffett's successor to immediately invest, according to the report.
A Berkshire dividend is expected to start out small, at 2 percent or less, according to the report.
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