Warren Buffett's annual letter: Berkshire got a $29 billion gift

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett talks with a shareholder before the company's annual meeting in Omaha

Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett said he expects the company's insurers will have to pay about $3 billion in claims related to the hurricanes that struck Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico last fall.

That means the overall gain from the company's 1964 initial public offering to the end of past year would have shown a per-share increase in market value of 2,404,748 percent, according to the letter, compare to the broader market's gains of 15,508 percent during that time, when including dividends.

Behring also said the board looks forward to continuing its partnership with Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

The company also saw its war chest swell: it had $116 billion in cash and US Treasury bills as of the end of 2017, a financial manna that Buffett wants to use to make significant new acquisitions.

Berkshire's gain in net worth during 2017 was $65.3 billion which increased per-share book value by 23% since yearend 2016 to $211,750 per Class A equivalent share ($141.17 per Class B equivalent share).

Said Buffett in Saturday's annual letter: "You and I are lucky to have Ajit and Greg working for us".

Buffett himself earlier this year expressed some reservation about the tax-code rewrite cobbled together by federal lawmakers. "Only $36 billion came from Berkshire's operations".

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"P$3 rices for decent, but far from spectacular, businesses hit an all-time high" past year, he wrote.

On acquisitions, too-high prices were a barrier to almost all deals Berkshire looked at past year, says Buffett.

Not so for Berkshire, Buffett said.

On Friday, Berkshire's Class A shares closed at $304,020.01, having risen above $300,000 a share for the first time ever in December on expectations that Trump's United States tax overhaul would pass into law.

Net earnings per Class A equivalent share attributable to shareholders jumped to $19,790 from $3,823 past year. And it holds major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co., Apple and Wells Fargo & Co. Operating profit, however, fell 18 percent to $14.46 billion, hurt by a rare loss from insurance underwriting.

Buffett urged investors to stick with stocks even though they can be riskier in the short-term.

Buffett in 2007 bet a founder of the asset management company Protégé Partners LLC $1 million that a Vanguard S&P 500 index fund would outperform several groups of hedge funds over a decade.

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