US$200,000 a share: Warren Buffett's Berkshire hits a record-high

Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett arrives for a conference on July 8, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho. The company's long-term gains have made Mr Buffett the world's third wealthiest man, his fortune worth US$65.9 billion (S$82 billion), a
Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett arrives for a conference on July 8, 2014 in Sun Valley, Idaho. The company's long-term gains have made Mr Buffett the world's third wealthiest man, his fortune worth US$65.9 billion (S$82 billion), according to Forbes magazine. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Shares in US investment star Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway group topped US$200,000 apiece for the first time on Thursday, less than eight years after breaking the US$100,000 barrier.

Already the priciest on US markets, Berkshire shares got even more expensive for investors in a 7.5 per cent climb since the company announced record quarterly earnings at the start of August.

In midday trade, Berkshire A shares were up US$2,495.64, or 1.3 per cent, to US$202,104.64.

Mr Buffett has become a legend for the performance of Berkshire, which has a large number of majority and minority investments in everything from small jewellery and furniture retailers to insurance giants Geico and General Re, chemicals group Lubrizol, Coca-Cola, IBM, American Express, Wells Fargo Bank and dozens of others.

The company's long-term gains have made Mr Buffett the world's third wealthiest man, his fortune worth US$65.9 billion (S$82 billion), according to Forbes magazine.

After crossing the US$100,000 line in October 2006, Berkshire shares have easily outperformed gauges like the S&P 500 broad-market index, up only 43 per cent since then, further burnishing Mr Buffett's star as the "Oracle of Omaha", the Nebraska city where he lives.

S&P Dow Jones index analyst Howard Silverblatt rued not having bought Berkshire shares early on.

"Warren has returned 22.6 per cent per year compounded since it crossed US$100 in May 1977 - the month I started at S&P," Silverblatt said.

"I should have indexed my pay cheque against it - (I) would be making almost half-a-million dollars a week."

But the company's future remains under a huge question mark, of who will replace Mr Buffett, 83. He has not said when he will retire but regularly says a solid succession plan has been mapped out.

To make the shares more accessible to small investors, Berkshire created a second class in 1996 when the A shares rose to around US$33,000 each. The B shares, labelled "Baby Berkshires" at the time, went out at just US$1,000.

Eventually they grew out of reach of small market players, and underwent a 50-to-1 split in 2010, a move also made to help the company finalise its takeover of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

On Thursday the B shares were up 1.3 per cent to US$134.79.