February 24, 2018 / 3:02 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Trump tax cut fuels record profit for Buffett's Berkshire

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By Jonathan Stempel

Feb 24 (Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Saturday reported a record quarterly and annual profit, fueled by a big cut in the U.S. corporate income tax rate championed by President Donald Trump.

Fourth-quarter net income increased roughly fivefold to $32.55 billion, or $19,790 per Class A share, from $6.29 billion, or $3,823 per share, a year earlier.

Quarterly operating profit for the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate fell 24 percent to $3.34 billion from $4.38 billion.

Berkshire attributed roughly $29.11 billion of its net income to the reduction of the corporate tax rate, to 21 percent from 35 percent, that Trump signed into law in December. Many U.S. companies' reported results have been skewed by the law's impact.

"Buffett has been quick to say that he thinks that the tax policy changes were going to help Berkshire and be positive overall," said Bill Smead, chief executive of Smead Capital Management in Seattle, a Berkshire shareholder. "It is a bit ironic his candidate would not have any interest in this whatsoever."

Buffett supported Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. "Buffett doesn't dwell very long on the politics," Smead said.

Book value per Class A share, which reflects assets minus liabilities and which Buffett considers a good yardstick for Berkshire's intrinsic worth, also benefited from the tax cut, rising 13 percent in the fourth quarter to $211,750.

For all of 2017, Berkshire's net income rose 87 percent to $44.94 billion. Operating profit, however, fell 18 percent to $14.46 billion, hurt by a rare loss from insurance underwriting.

Berkshire's Class A shares closed at $304,020.01 on Friday, and its Class B shares closed at $202.76. Both are up a little over 2 percent this year, but are down nearly 7 percent from their record highs set on Jan. 29. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Bill Trott)

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