This article, originally published at 12:10 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, 2016, has been updated with analyst commentary.
Profit at Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) - Get Report climbed 8.2% in the three months through March as investment gains overpowered declines in insurance underwriting as well as lower income from the railroad and energy division.
Preliminary profit of $5.59 billion reflected investment gains of $1.85 billion, more than double last year's, according to a statement from the Omaha, Neb.-based conglomerate. Income from insurance underwriting dropped 56% to $213 million, and railroad and energy profit fell 16% to $1.2 billion.
Investors may learn when the company files its financial statements for the period with the Securities & Exchange Commission, that claims continued to rise at auto-insurer Geico and shipments kept falling at Burlington Northern, the railroad Buffett bought not long after the 2008 financial crisis.
Both businesses face challenges from low oil prices, which tumbled more than 70% from their 2014 peak before paring losses. That resulted in cheaper gasoline, which put Geico customers on the road more often and increased the risk of accidents. It also meant lower industrial demand from Burlington Northern customers who ship supplies used to produce oil through so-called fracking, which has slowed significantly.
Last year alone, freight revenue from industrial shipments including fracking materials fell 11%, the company reported in February. Berkshire managers predicted at the time that coal shipments at the railroad, which has roughly 32,500 miles of track in 28 states, would also decline this year.
"Railroads have been under some pressure on the revenue side," Jim Shanahan, an analyst with Edward Jones, said in a phone interview before the report. Burlington also faced challenges in consumer and agricultural shipments, he said.
Geico, the brand promoted through commercials with a talking gecko and, most recently, ads in which the fictional characters Tarzan and Jane argue over directions in the jungle, pulled Berkshire's total underwriting income 31% lower last year amid more frequent and costlier claims.
While Saturday's preliminary report didn't provide details on Geico, the rise in claims likely continued in the three months through January, Shanahan said, and may have been exacerbated by inclement weather in the South. "Wind and hail does damage cars," he said. "There could be some elevated repair costs."
The three months through March are the first quarter in which Berkshire's performance reflects the acquisition of battery-maker Duracell from Procter & Gamble (PG) - Get Reportand the purchase of aerospace parts-maker Precision Castparts for $32 billion, which was completed in late January.
Investors remain curious about who might succeed Buffett as CEO. While the 85-year-old has previously said he has a succession plan and that his role may be split between two people, one overseeing investing and the other in charge of operations, he hasn't identified them publicly.
He did, however, say that the webcast of Saturday's meeting -- the first time that the company has opened the event to people who didn't attend in person -- would offer investors a chance to make sure that he and vice chairman Charlie Munger weren't losing their ability to manage.
"Charlie is 92, and I am 85," he noted in a February letter to shareholders. "If we were partners with you in a small business, and were charged with running the place, you would want to look in occasionally to make sure we hadn't drifted off into la-la land. Shareholders, in contrast, should not need to come to Omaha to monitor how we look and sound. "
On that score, the meeting -- which included an extensive question-and-answer session -- was a success, Meyer Shields, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said in a note to clients Monday.
Both "appear completely on top of their game," he wrote. "Warren Buffett's and Charlie Munger's responses to the presented questions were thoughtful, informative, wide-ranging, opinionated and consistently entertaining."
Shields maintained a "market perform" rating on the stock, partly because of "inevitable management transition" and limited potential for gains in the stock's valuation, as well as "what we view as a gap between the perceptions and reality of Berkshire Hathaway."
The company is expected to post earnings of $2,761 a share on revenue of $52.4 billion for the first quarter, the average of estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Saturday's preliminary report didn't include revenue or per-share data.
For all of last year, revenue climbed 8.3% to $210.8 billion. Net earnings climbed 21% to $24.1 billion, or $14,656 a share, topping the $10,630 average of analysts' estimates.