Warren Buffett's pandemic-hit businesses roared back to life in 2021. Here are his 7 big winners.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway staged a powerful comeback from the pandemic in 2021.
The investor's company benefited from strong demand for homes, furniture, cars, and microchips.
Berkshire's railroads, utilities, manufacturers, retailers, and service companies grew strongly.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway was hit hard when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, but the famed investor's company rebounded strongly in 2021.
Berkshire owns a sprawling collection of insurers, railroads, utilities, real-estate brokerages, manufacturers, retailers, and service companies. Many people view the conglomerate as a microcosm of the broader US economy, and follow it closely for hints about the nation's health.
Buffett's company capitalized on soaring demand for homes, furniture, construction materials, cars, private-jet trips, microchips, and other products and services last year, its latest annual report showed.
Pretax earnings: +16%
Notes: Burlington Northern Santa Fe is one of the largest railroad systems in North America. BNSF trains traveled 143 million miles last year, and carried 535 million tons of cargo, easily surpassing any other American carrier.
Performance: BNSF generated a record $6 billion in net earnings in 2021, as volumes climbed 7% and average revenue per car rose 4%.
Energy and real estate
Pretax earnings: +28%
Notes: Berkshire Hathaway Energy owns regulated utilities such as PacifiCorp and NV Energy, various renewable-energy projects, and the nation's largest real-estate brokerage firm, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.
Performance: Revenue surged 22% in the energy business as customer numbers jumped, and soared 15% in the real-estate segment as transaction volumes rose.
Manufacturing — consumer products
Pretax earnings: +42%
Notes: Berkshire owns Forest River (RVs), Duracell (batteries), Brooks Sports (athletic apparel and footwear), Fruit of the Loom (apparel), and Richline (fine jewelry).
Performance: Forest River's revenue jumped 40% last year, reflecting a 28% increase in RV sales, and higher average selling prices.
Apparel and footwear revenues rose 25% due to higher demand from consumers and retailers replenishing their inventories. Richline's revenue climbed 40%.
Manufacturing — building products
Pretax earnings: +19%
Notes: Berkshire owns Clayton Homes (manufactured houses), Shaw (flooring), Johns Manville (insulation and roofing), Acme Building Brands (bricks), Benjamin Moore (paints), and MiTek (construction and engineering).
Performance: The division benefited from higher average selling prices, and greater sales volumes of paint, flooring, insulation, roofing, and other building products in 2021. Clayton grew revenue by 22% as it sold more homes at higher prices.
Manufacturing — industrials
Pretax earnings: +19%
Notes: Berkshire's industrial businesses include Lubrizol (specialty chemicals), Marmon (industrial holding group), IMC (metalworking), and Precision Castparts (aerospace components).
Performance: Lubrizol's revenue rose 9% as it sold more products and charged higher prices to offset its rising costs.
Marmon's revenue surged 28% as it passed on higher metal prices to customers, and cashed in on strong demand across the construction, automotive, heavy-duty truck, and restaurant markets.
Pretax earnings: +67%
Notes: Berkshire owns NetJets (fractional ownership of private jets), FlightSafety (pilot training), TTI (electronic-components distribution), Dairy Queen (fast food), and Business Wire (press releases).
Performance: TTI's revenue rose 37% in 2021 as electronics companies, facing a challenging mix of high demand and constricted supply, hustled to maintain their inventories.
Aviation revenue soared 28% as pilots logged more training hours and private-jet customers booked more trips.
Pretax earnings: +76%
Notes: Berkshire owns Berkshire Hathaway Automotive (car dealerships), See's Candies (confectionery), Nebraska Furniture Mart (home furnishings), Borsheims (jewellery), Pampered Chef (kitchen tools)
Performance: BHA's revenues climbed 19% last year as vehicle sales jumped 21%. The increase was mostly driven by price increases, along with a 3% rise in units sold.
The home-furnishing unit's revenues climbed 22% in 2021, reflecting increased customer demand and higher average selling prices.
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