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September 22, 2017

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Moody's strips Warren Buffet company of 'Aaa' top rating

NEW YORK -- Moody's Investors Service cut its credit ratings on Berkshire Hathaway Inc. from Aaa, the top rating, saying the recession and investment losses at insurance operations of investor Warren Buffett's holding company reduced its ability to support funding needs.

Wednesday's cut to Berkshire's rating means Moody's no longer has a Aaa rating on any company with significant financial-services operations.

Moody's cut the ratings on Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire to Aa2, the third-highest investment grade, and cut to Aa1, the second-highest, its ratings on Berkshire's reinsurance subsidiary National Indemnity Co and bond insurance arm Berkshire Hathaway Assurance Corp.

The downgrades come more than a month after Berkshire reported a 62 percent drop in profit, the worst year since Buffett took over 44 years ago.

The outlook for all the ratings is stable, Moody's said, indicating an additional rating change is not anticipated over the next 12 to 18 months.

A Berkshire spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.

The cut by Moody's comes nearly four weeks after Fitch stripped Berkshire of its top rating, saying it believed "AAA ratings are not appropriate at the holding company level for financial-oriented enterprises," lowering its rating to AA.

Fitch also raised so-called "key man risk," pointing to 78-year-old Buffett's lack of a publicly named successor.

Berkshire is still clinging to its triple-A rating from Standard & Poor's. But on March 25 S&P changed its outlook on Berkshire to negative, indicating a downgrade is now more likely.

S&P on Wednesday cut the ratings on all major U.S. mortgage insurers, saying the deterioration in the residential mortgage market had translated into greater delinquency rates than it had anticipated.

Moody's cut to Berkshire's ratings leaves only four other companies with its top rating: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and Automatic Data Processing Inc (ADP.O: Quote, Profile, Research).

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