Amsterdam Financial Services Correspondent
Ben's Feed
May 5, 2012

Berkshire meeting starts with ice cream and singing

, May 5 (Reuters) – Berkshire Hathaway
opened its annual shareholder meeting on Saturday with
Chief Executive Warren Buffett doing what any CEO would do for
shareholders — singing with cheerleaders and tossing newspapers
in a contest against local kids.

As many as 40,000 shareholders have descended on Omaha for
the event pegged as the “Woodstock for Capitalism,” and Buffett
did not disappoint with his pre-meeting walk around on the floor
of the local convention center.

May 4, 2012

Berkshire profits double as insurance losses fall

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) – Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway more than doubled its profit in the first quarter, as the conglomerate’s insurance business was spared from the devastating natural disaster losses that hit the company a year earlier.

The company also benefited from much higher gains in its derivatives portfolio, offset in part by a substantial write-down on one of its bond holdings.

May 4, 2012

Buffett’s lieutenants see economy picking up

OMAHA (Reuters) – All signs point to slow but steady economic growth as consumers gradually increase their spending, senior executives of Warren Buffett’s conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway said on Friday.

Nearly 40,000 Berkshire (BRKa.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) shareholders are gathering in Omaha this weekend for the company’s annual meeting. While a good bit of Saturday’s Q-and-A is expected to focus on Buffett’s health and succession planning, the “Oracle of Omaha” will inevitably field a number of questions on the economy.

May 2, 2012

Allstate beats Street, derivatives hurt Prudential

By Ben Berkowitz

(Reuters) – Two of the largest insurers in the United States reported diverging fortunes on Wednesday, as Allstate (ALL.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) handily beat earnings expectations on better margins and lower disaster losses, while currency fluctuations pushed Prudential Financial (PRU.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) to a substantial net loss of nearly $1 billion.

Allstate, the largest publicly traded home and auto insurer in the country, posted a profit of $766 million or $1.53 per share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $524 million or 98 cents per share.

May 2, 2012

Flood insurance debate resumes as deadline nears

By Ben Berkowitz

(Reuters) – Federal officials are putting fresh pressure on Congress to take action on the National Flood Insurance Program, whose authorization expires at the end of this month, one day before hurricane season begins.

The NFIP has been a political football in Washington for years, particularly because of the unsustainable debt load it took on in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There is a broad push to reform the program and put it on a sound financial footing, but competing visions on that reform (including whether to forgive the program’s debts) have stalled legislation.

May 2, 2012

U.S. flood insurance debate resumes as deadline nears

May 2 (Reuters) – Federal officials are putting fresh
pressure on Congress to take action on the National Flood
Insurance Program, whose authorization expires at the end of
this month, one day before hurricane season begins.

The NFIP has been a political football in Washington for
years, particularly because of the unsustainable debt load it
took on in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There is a
broad push to reform the program and put it on a sound financial
footing, but competing visions on that reform (including whether
to forgive the program’s debts) have stalled legislation.

Apr 30, 2012

Buffett’s cancer to be No. 1 topic at Berkshire meeting

By Ben Berkowitz

(Reuters) – Warren Buffett is not one to talk much about his personal life in public, but his prostate cancer may dominate the conversation this weekend when his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) convenes its annual shareholder meeting.

The event dubbed “Woodstock for Capitalism” draws more than 40,000 shareholders to Omaha, Nebraska’s convention center for a weekend of festivities, the highlight of which being the questions Buffett takes from investors. This year, for the first time, he will also entertain questions from a select group of analysts who follow Berkshire’s stock.

Apr 27, 2012

MetLife not rushing to return capital

April 27 (Reuters) – MetLife Inc will need to
“examine a range of factors” once it sheds its bank holding
company status before it can decide on returning capital to
shareholders, the chief executive of the largest U.S. life
insurer said on Friday.

The comments may have dashed some investors’ hopes that the
company could start buying back shares and paying a richer
dividend as soon as July, though MetLife said it remains
committed to returning capital at some point. Shares fell in the
opening minutes of trading.

Apr 24, 2012

Marsh & McLennan takes stake in Juniperus

By Ben Berkowitz

(Reuters) – Marsh & McLennan (MMC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) will take a minority stake in Bermuda-based insurance asset manager Juniperus Capital, which specializes in catastrophe bonds and other capital markets insurance products, Juniperus and its private equity backer, Aquiline Capital Partners, said Tuesday.

The deal makes for a reunion of sorts – Aquiline Chief Executive Jeff Greenberg was for many years the CEO of the consultancy and insurance broker Marsh & McLennan before being forced out in 2005.

Apr 24, 2012

Marsh & McLennan takes stake in asset mgr Juniperus

April 24 (Reuters) – Marsh & McLennan will take a
minority stake in Bermuda-based insurance asset manager
Juniperus Capital, which specializes in catastrophe bonds and
other capital markets insurance products, Juniperus and its
private equity backer, Aquiline Capital Partners, said Tuesday.

The deal makes for a reunion of sorts – Aquiline Chief
Executive Jeff Greenberg was for many years the CEO of the
consultancy and insurance broker Marsh & McLennan before being
forced out in 2005.

    • About Ben

      "Ben Berkowitz covers the insurance industry in New York City. He rejoined Reuters in Amsterdam in May 2009, covering the Dutch banking system and economy. He originally worked for Reuters in Los Angeles and New York from 2001 to 2006 covering everything from video games to oil. In between he was business editor at AOL, head of the editing desk at AP Business News and managing editor of Fidelity.com."
    • More from Ben

    • Follow Ben