Berkshire Hathaway lost $25 billion last quarter

Berkshire’s rough ride with Kraft.
Berkshire’s rough ride with Kraft.
Image: Quartz/Corinne Purtill
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The last quarter of 2018 was a tough one for investors as US stocks tumbled. When you’re as big as Berkshire Hathaway, there’s an especially long way to fall.

The Omaha-based conglomerate run by Warren Buffett lost $25.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to its annual report (pdf) released Saturday.

The single biggest contributor to its dismal fourth quarter was Kraft Heinz, the processed-food company that earlier this week posted $12.6 billion in fourth-quarter losses. The swift fall in value of the company’s packaged-food brands came at a $3 billion cost to Berkshire, which owns almost 27% of the company.

Despite a dismal end to the year, Berkshire earned $4 billion in 2018. Buffett also managed to beat the S&P 500, a once-routine feat that has become increasingly difficult as Berkshire has grown in size. The S&P 500 was down 4.4% last year; in the same period, Berkshire’s book value was up 0.4%, and its stock price 2.8%.