Buffett Quells Talk of Big Insurance Takeovers

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

As Berkshire continues to expand its insurance empire, including just last week adding a new Australasia Region to Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, rumors have swelled that the company might be ready to put some of its $30 billion in cash to work through a major insurance company acquisition.

At the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting on May 2, Buffett dismissed such speculation. He noted that it is “almost certain that we will not take over a large commercial insurance company.”

A SIFI?

Berkshire’s continued growth in the insurance industry, which in addition to Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance includes GEICO, National Indemnity, and Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group, has brought questions as to whether Berkshire is now a Systematically Important Financial Institution (SIFI).

“There is no reason, in logic or in terms of what we’ve heard, to think that Berkshire would be designated as a SIFI,” Buffett noted. “I do not think Berkshire comes within miles of qualifying as a SIFI.”

While Berkshire Hathaway continues to build its own insurance companies, including bringing on board four former AIG executives for its new Australia-based unit, Buffett notes that insurance is only about 30-percent of Berkshire’s total business, with business units, such as BNSF Railway, being much larger.

The insurance and transportation units helped propel Berkshire’s 2015 first quarter earnings up almost 10% over first quarter 2014, with lower fuel costs for BNSF a particular factor.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.