Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway swung to a $49.7 billion loss in the first quarter, the conglomerate reported on Saturday, reflecting the toll that the coronavirus has inflicted on one of America’s best-known investors.
The loss — compared with a $21.7 billion profit during the same quarter a year ago — was driven by the pandemic’s hits to its vast array of investments and operating businesses, which expose it to huge swaths of an American economy battered by the pandemic.
That portfolio includes stakes in financial firms like Bank of America and American Express, both of which reported steep drops in earnings for the first quarter, and four of the biggest U.S. airlines. (In its regulatory filing disclosing its quarterly results, however, Berkshire said that paper gains or losses on its investments “are often meaningless” in understanding its overall health.)
The release comes ahead of Berkshire’s first-ever online-only annual shareholder meeting. It is a change, made necessary by the pandemic, to an event that usually draws tens of thousands of investors to an arena in Omaha to listen to Mr. Buffett expound on the state of capitalism, business, politics and much more.