The billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett disclosed Friday that he had earned profits for shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway by speculating in the Brazilian currency, the real, and by buying a large stake in a French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi-Aventis.
He also complained that many other companies were overstating earnings, and he expressed puzzlement that their auditors let them get away with it.
Mr. Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders, which was released Friday, has become something of a business institution, with the certainty that he will offer caustic comments and the hope that he will shed light on his investments.
This year, his scorn was aimed at the “financial folly” of lenders who financed the housing boom, since vanished, and at companies that use rosy assumptions of investment success to raise reported profits.
The comments, which were released after the market closed, came as Berkshire reported that fourth-quarter profit fell 18 percent, in part because of falling insurance rates. Net income decreased to $2.95 billion, or $1,904 a share, from $3.58 billion, or $2,323, a year earlier.
Mr. Buffett offered no commentary on Berkshire’s foray into the municipal bond insurance business, and no explanation of why he spent $1.5 billion to buy a 1.3 percent stake in Sanofi-Aventis.
But he was willing to say, in effect, “I told you so,” in recalling his warning a year ago about “weakened lending practices” in the mortgage market.
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