Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run by Warren E. Buffett, reported $11.7 billion in net earnings in the first quarter on Saturday, swinging to a profit from a $49.7 billion loss a year ago as the paper value of its investment gains soared.
Using Berkshire’s preferred financial metric, operating earnings, the company showed a nearly 19 percent year-on-year gain as its wide array of subsidiaries — from energy production to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad to consumer brands — improved their performances.
Among the businesses that saw the biggest improvements was the railroad, which benefited from higher freight volumes as the American economy rebounded from the pandemic. Berkshire’s building products and consumer subsidiaries also posted higher sales, as housing construction and retail buying picked up.
Other parts of Mr. Buffett’s empire continued to show strain, however, particularly industrial manufacturers like Precision Castparts, whose aerospace parts were in lower demand because of the Covid-related drop in travel.
reject proposals to compel Berkshire to disclose more about its subsidiaries’ efforts to address climate change and workplace diversity, raising questions about whether his approach is out of step.