Updated from 11:28 a.m. EDT
Update includes more details on first-quarter earnings as well as estimates of Berkshire's losses from natural catastrophes
OMAHA, Neb. (
) -- Warren Buffett's
Saturday reported preliminary first-quarter earnings of $1.51 billion, down from $3.63 billion in the same quarter last year.
The decline in net earnings was partly attributable to Berkshire's insurance underwriting businesses, which lost $821 million during the quarter, vs. year-earlier earnings of $226 million.
The company released the preliminary results at its annual meeting in Omaha.
Also weighing on overall earnings was an $82 million loss on investments and derivatives. The company reported $1.41 billion in earnings in this category for the first quarter of 2010.
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Earnings for Berkshire's railroad, utilities and energy businesses rose to $908 million from $505 million, while manufacturing, service and retail units earned $558 million, up from $477 million a year earlier.
Ahead of Saturday's annual meeting,
including the tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan in March.
In the news release announcing the preliminary first-quarter results, Berkshire broke out estimates for each event, saying it would likely incur losses of $1.07 billion from Japan's catastrophe, $412 million from New Zealand's Christchurch earthquake and $195 million from Australia's floods and Cyclone Yasi.
Berkshire's Class A shares ended Friday down $55 at $124,750. The company's Class B stock finished the session up 3 cents at $83.30.
This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.