Amsterdam Financial Services Correspondent
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Feb 25, 2012

Buffett adds to bullish US economic recovery signals

By Ben Berkowitz

(Reuters) – Anyone looking for more evidence of a strengthening U.S. economic recovery need only consider conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), where businesses ranging from railroads and electric utilities to furniture and candy stores are racking up record profits.

Even though Berkshire’s Warren Buffett says with emphasis that the housing market is still in a depression, he was as upbeat as ever this weekend on the rest of the dozens of businesses he owns.

Feb 25, 2012

Berkshire identifies Buffett successor, not by name

Feb 25 (Reuters) – Warren Buffett told investors on
Saturday the Berkshire Hathaway board has identified
his successor, easing some shareholder concern about the future
of the company once the famed 81-year-old investor steps down as
chief executive.

Buffett did not disclose who the next CEO will be in his
annual letter to Berkshire shareholders. But he began the letter
with the succession topic – one that’s been a huge issue for
shareholders for years.

Feb 23, 2012

AIG posts huge 4th-quarter profit on tax benefit

Feb 23 (Reuters) – Bailed-out insurer American
International Group reported a $19.8 billion profit for
the fourth quarter, after an accounting determination that it is
likely to post future profits let it release the value of some
tax benefits.

The move essentially means AIG will not pay tax on tens of
billions of dollars in income in the coming years, thanks to
benefits that stem from its crisis-era losses.

Feb 16, 2012

Buffett, Malone: Not-so odd investment pair

BOSTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Investing can make for
strange bedfellows.

On Tuesday Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway
reported taking a 1.48 percent stake in John Malone’s Liberty
Media in the fourth quarter, nearly enough to make
Berkshire a top-10 shareholder. Berkshire also ramped up its
stake to nearly 3 percent in satellite broadcaster DirecTV
, which Malone formerly chaired and in which he remains a
major holder.

Aside from their riches, savvy investing and simple
lifestyles, the two investors could not be more opposite:
Buffett built a diversified financial and industrial empire and
has famously called the low income-tax rate he pays unfair.
Malone built a media powerhouse through deals structured to
incur the least tax.

Feb 8, 2012

Hartford shares soar as Paulson pushes breakup

By Ben Berkowitz and Svea Herbst-Bayliss

(Reuters) – Shares of insurer Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (HIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) soared on Wednesday after the company said it had considered the possibility of a breakup and hedge fund titan John Paulson pushed it to be more aggressive on that front.

Paulson, Hartford’s largest shareholder, grew increasingly agitated and impatient on a conference call with the company and financial analysts, ultimately shouting that management had a responsibility to do more to improve shareholder value.

Feb 7, 2012

Daredevil CEOs may put their companies at risk

BOSTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – The death of Micron
Technology Inc Chief Executive Steve Appleton in the
crash of an experimental plane is raising fresh questions about
what a company should disclose to investors when a senior
executive has a high-risk hobby.

There are plenty of corporate chieftains who indulge in
risky pastimes. Oracle Inc CEO Larry Ellison, a sailor
and pilot whose adventures are part of his Silicon Valley
mystique, competed in the storm-plagued 1998 Sydney to Hobart
Yacht Race. Six men died and nearly two-thirds of the boats in
the race did not finish.

Feb 3, 2012

Forget Romney or Obama, the voters want Tim Tebow: poll

BOSTON (Reuters) – He won’t be in this Sunday’s Super Bowl and his Denver Broncos are already 50-to-1 longshots for next year’s National Football League title, but if Tim Tebow swapped the pigskin for politics, he just might be a shoo-in for the White House.

Asked which NFL playoff quarterback they would choose for president of the United States in the coming election, more than one in four voters go for Tebow, according to the results of a new Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters released on Friday.

Feb 1, 2012

Allstate crushes estimates on lower disasters

Feb 1 (Reuters) – Allstate Corp (ALL.N: Quote, Profile, Research) blew past Wall
Street estimates on Wednesday, more than doubling its profits as
the largest listed home and auto insurer in the United States
benefited from lower catastrophe losses and better results in
its homeowners business.

Allstate reported a fourth quarter net profit of $724
million, or $1.43 per share, compared with a year-earlier profit
of $296 million or 55 cents per share.

Jan 30, 2012

U.S. insurers expected to dodge regulatory shakeup

BOSTON/WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – The new Federal
Insurance Office, tasked with crafting a vision for the future
of insurance regulation, is expected to bless the current
state-by-state model when it delivers its long-awaited report to
Congress in coming weeks.

From the financial industry’s perspective, the report will
likely be a rare win as regulators rewrite how financial
companies on and off Wall Street are to be policed in the wake
of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Jan 24, 2012

AIG merges units to form group benefits business

BOSTON (Reuters) – Bailed-out insurer American International Group Inc (AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) will merge the employee benefit businesses of two of its operating companies, creating a much larger player in that sector under the AIG brand name.

After more than three years of trying to save itself following a near-collapse during the financial crisis, AIG has emerged on a firmer footing and is now pushing its name more aggressively in the market.

    • 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."
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