June 29, 2009 / 9:50 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-KBW starts Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway with outperform

June 29 (Reuters) - Keefe, Bruyette and Woods initiated Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) with an “outperform” rating, and said the insurance and investment company has high quality businesses with attractive long-term growth prospects.

With $25 billion in cash, low debt levels and low leverage ratios, billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire has one of the world’s strongest balance sheets, despite negative investment and derivative marks in recent quarters, analyst Cliff Gallant said.

In the January-to-March period, Berkshire, which runs close to 80 businesses, had its first quarterly loss since 2001, hurt by losses on derivative contracts, a big investment in the oil company ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and the weakening economy.

“Despite negative marks in its derivative portfolio, the recent global financial turmoil has left Berkshire standing tall as one of the world’s few financially sound institutions,” Gallant added.

Gallant set a price target of $107,000 on Berkshire shares and said investment opportunities for the Omaha, Nebraska-based company may be better than they have been in years as financial markets remain tumultuous.

“Paraphrasing a Buffet analogy, the tide has gone out and Berkshire is not just wearing shorts, but a belt and suspenders in the form of financial strength and quality operating businesses,” Gallant said. Shares of the company closed at $86,210 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Tenzin Pema in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal

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