Buffett gets bullish before meeting
Berkshire Hathaway buys majority stake in Israel metal cutting tool maker for $5B, reports 70% jump in earnings.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the investment company controlled by Warren Buffett, said Friday it purchased a majority stake in a privately held metalworking firm for $5 billion,and reported a 70 percent jump in first-quarter earnings.

News of the buyout and Berkshire (up $710.00 to $88,710.00, Research)'s first-quarter results come just ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting scheduled for this weekend in Omaha, Neb.

Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett
Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett

Just before the release of its earnings, the company announced it would own an 80 percent stake in the metal cutting tools firm Iscar Metalworking Cos. of Israel.

"As a truly international business, IMC is a top performer in its industry," said Buffett in a statement. "With this acquisition, we have the benefit of investing in a stable business with very significant growth prospects."

The current chairman and CEO of IMC will continue to lead the company, Berkshire said.

The deal still requires regulatory approval, the companies said.

Iscar, which runs multiple facilities across the globe, becomes the latest addition to the stable of companies owned by Berkshire, which includes insurer Geico Corp. and snack stand operator Dairy Queen. Just last month the Omaha, Neb.-based firm announced its acquisition of sporting apparel maker Russell Corp.

Net income for Berkshire rose to $2.31 billion, or $1,501 per share, from $1.36 billion, or $886 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 29 percent to $22.76 billion.

Per-share figures are high because Berkshire has few shares outstanding.

Berkshire reported its insurance revenue rose 12 percent to $18.99 billion. Auto insurer Geico Corp. posted a 10 percent increase in earned premiums, while reinsurer General Re Corp. posted a 14 percent decline, hurt by cancellations and nonrenewals in North America.

The company said its cash position fell to $42.86 billion from a revised $45.02 billion at year end. In March, Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. unit acquired the western U.S. utility PacifiCorp from Scottish Power for $5.1 billion in cash, Buffett's biggest purchase in eight years.

Berkshire's stake in foreign currency contracts declined to $5.4 billion from $13.8 billion at year end, and $21.4 billion a year earlier. The currency stake resulted in a $151 million gain in the quarter, as the U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the greenback's value against six currencies, fell 1.6 percent. Berkshire lost $955 million on currencies in 2005.

Many had speculated that the Buffett will announce a major acquisition at the meeting in Omaha, where over 20,000 shareholders are expected to attend.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Friday that the company has $45 billion in cash and Buffett has said more than once that he is looking to spend money in the energy and utilities sectors.

One company that might fit well into that plan is PG&E Corp., a San Francisco utility with a market value of $13 billion, the paper said.

--from staff and wire reports


Buffett: $45 billion spending-spree speculation -- click hereTop of page

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