Sunday 8 November 2009 7:00 pm

Buffett sees third quarter profits triple

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THE world’s second-richest man, Warren Buffett, has seen profits for his investment vehicle Berkshire Hathaway almost triple in the third quarter to $3.2bn (£1.9bn).

Strong markets and derivatives gains in the three months to September, up from $1.1bn for the same period last year, have caused the improvement. It marks a strong recovery from a 9.6 per cent slump in value in 2008, which was Berkshire Hathaway’s worst year since Buffett took over 44 years ago.

The resurgent company recorded over $1.1bn in accounting gains on derivatives during the quarter, against losses of just over $1bn for the period last year. Much of this came from Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio of more than $30bn of credit default swaps, which rose in value as perceived risk decreased.

Revenue rose seven per cent to $29.9bn, but excluding derivative and investment gains, the company’s operating profit of $2.06bn beat analysts’ expectations, while still underperforming last year.

The news comes days after Buffett announced his biggest deal to date, the $44bn purchase of North America’s second-largest railway, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which is not included in the third-quarter results. Credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s has threatened to remove Berkshire Hathaway’s triple-A credit rating, and a shareholder lawsuit has also been launched.

WARREN Buffett filed his first income tax return working as a newspaper delivery boy at the age of 13, deducting his bike and watch as expenses for $35.

He has since ended Bill Gates’ 13-year position as Forbes’ richest man in the world, this year slipping back to second with a net worth of $37bn (£22.3bn), almost double that of Lakshmi Mittal.

His first investment, aged 15, was a $25 pinball machine which he placed in a Washington DC barber shop, before buying two more machines soon after.

While working as a stockbroker in the 1950s, he took a course in public speaking and taught night classes on investment principles at the University of Nebraska.

He bought his five-bedroom stucco house in Omaha for $31,500 in 1957 and still lives there today.

Buffett became a millionaire in January 1962, and began investing in Berkshire Hathaway.

He took control of the company three years later, and as chairman, chief executive and primary shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway he has transformed the one-time textiles manufacturer, which as of 31 December 2008 had the highest-priced shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

The annual shareholders’ meetings in Omaha, Nebraska – known as “Woodstock for Capitalists” – are routinely visited by 20,000 people.

The meetings are known for starting with short, specially-made films, featuring actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.