Bunge earnings soar on export demand, oilseeds

by World Grain Staff
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WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK, U.S. — Bunge reported on Oct. 25 a 112% increase in earnings in the third quarter due to strong export demand and higher oilseed processing
Net earnings rose to $297 million or $1.92 per share from the $140 million or 89¢ per share a year ago. Excluding one-time items, the company earned $2.08 per share.
Net sales rose 10% to $17.29 billion.
"Bunge delivered significantly stronger third-quarter results than in the prior year. Agribusiness operations posted solid results, and Food & Ingredients and Fertilizer showed improved performance from the challenging first half of the year,” said Alberto Weisser, Bunge's chairman and chief executive officer. Results in Sugar & Bioenergy on a comparable basis were higher than last year, but below the potential of this business. Our continued sugarcane planting and other cost reduction efforts which will result in increased sales volumes and lower unit costs will help us realize this potential. We are making steady progress, and remain optimistic for a strong performance in the 2013 crop year.
"The current market environment, shaped most notably by the severe U.S. drought, has been and will continue to be volatile and complex for everyone who participates in our industry. Stocks of corn and soybeans are tight, and the world is adjusting typical trade flows. Bunge's role is to help farmers and customers manage through this environment, by providing market access for crops and delivering the right products when and where they are needed. We are confident that the company's core strengths – geographic balance, a diverse product portfolio, an experienced team and a strong balance sheet — enable us to fulfill this role effectively and profitably.
Agribusiness operations in all geographies performed well in the quarter. Higher oilseed processing results were driven by North America, Europe and Asia, which experienced a challenging year-ago period. Oilseed processing in South America also performed well. Our grain merchandising operations benefited from the combination of strong export demand and large South American grain supplies. Higher volumes in the quarter reflect contributions from our investments in additional grain and port facilities in the U.S. and strong export demand.
Sugarcane milling performance improved from last year, generating a slight profit in the quarter primarily due to higher sugar margins. However, results were lower than would normally be expected for the seasonally strong third quarter primarily due to lower sales volume caused by port congestion, and lower sugar content of harvested cane, which led to reduced production volumes and increased unit costs, Bunge said. While improved from last year, our trading & merchandising business reported a loss. Results in the quarter included an impairment charge of $39 million related to a North American corn ethanol joint venture.
Higher results in edible oil products in Bunge’s European and Brazilian businesses more than offset lower results in our North American operations. Results in the quarter benefited from new acquisitions. Results in 2011 included a $6 million gain on the sale of an idled facility in North America.
Higher earnings in the quarter in milling products were primarily driven by improved margins in wheat milling. Bunge’s wheat mill in Mexico, in which the company acquired a majority interest in the second quarter of 2012, also contributed to results.
Drew Burke, chief financial officer, said, "With soybean supplies in South America at low levels, oilseed processing will largely be driven by North America and Europe, which should benefit from strong export demand. Considering the tight supply environment, global grain demand will continue to be met by a variety of products from different geographies. With our global network of ports and elevators, our grain merchandising operations should continue to perform well.
"In Sugar & Bioenergy, we expect our milling business to continue to improve through the remainder of the year. We remain on track to reach our planting target of approximately 70 thousand hectares of sugarcane this year. This, combined with the steps we are taking to improve the efficiency of our operations, should enable us to operate our mills at full capacity in the 2013 crop year with lower unit production costs.
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