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Berkshire Hathaway net falls, operating profit rises

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett listens to a shareholder at the Berkshire-owned Borsheims jewelry store where Buffett was selling jewelry as part of the company annual meeting weekend in Omaha, Nebraska May 4, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

(Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Saturday said fourth-quarter profit declined 17 percent as investment gains declined, but operating results improved.

Earnings fell short of analyst forecasts as profit declined from insurance underwriting, though results improved in Berkshire's railroad and energy operations.

Net income fell to $4.16 billion, or $2,529 per Class A share, from $4.99 billion, or $3,035 per share, a year earlier.

Quarterly operating profit rose 5 percent to $3.96 billion, or $2,412 per share, from $3.78 billion, or $2,297 per share.

Analysts on average had forecast operating profit of $2,701 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Quarterly revenue rose 3 percent to $48.26 billion.

Book value per share, which Buffett considers a good measure of Berkshire's worth, rose 8.3 percent from a year earlier to $146,186.

For all of 2014, profit rose 2 percent to $19.87 billion, or $12,092 per share, while operating profit rose 9 percent to $16.55 billion, or $10,071 per share.

Buffett, 84, has run Berkshire since 1965, transforming it from a failing textile company into a conglomerate with more than 80 operating businesses in such areas as insurance, railroads, energy, food and apparel, and real estate.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based company also has $117.5 billion of equity investments, roughly 59 percent of which is in just four stocks: American Express Co, Coca-Cola Co, IBM Corp and Wells Fargo & Co.

Berkshire ended the year with $63.27 billion of cash, giving Buffett the ability to make one or more large acquisitions while still leaving a sufficient cushion.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Holmes)