Growth was especially impressive in the fourth quarter as adjusted operating earnings rose 76% to $809 million from $460 million, net earnings of $711 million more than doubled from the $347 million in the previous year’s fourth quarter, and revenues increased 7% to $30.4 billion.
In the fiscal year, net earnings rose 9% to $3.1 billion, and revenues grew 5% to $114.7 billion. Both adjusted earnings and net earnings included a provisional net charge of $86 million related to the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted in December of 2017. Three of the company’s four business segments posted stronger earnings when compared to the previous fiscal year.
The Origination & Processing segment put up its best fourth quarter in seven years to exceed last year’s quarterly and annual results. For most of the fiscal year, big crops, building stocks and low market volatility muted rising demand for grains and oilseeds. The situation changed toward the end of the year as drought in Argentina and other markets began to influence global flows of corn, soybeans and related products. The segment improved origination, processing and trading results in key geographies.
Results in Animal Nutrition & Protein surpassed last year’s results. The segment was the largest contributor to Cargill’s adjusted operating earnings in the fourth quarter and full year. Rising domestic and export demand for North American beef and expansion in value-added egg products fueled the performance of the protein business. Excess supplies of chicken relative to domestic demand in Thailand contributed to a moderate decrease in global poultry results.
Earnings in Food Ingredients & Applications rose for a third straight year thanks to performance in cocoa and chocolate, gains in Asia-based ingredients and global edible oils, and earnings across global starches and sweeteners. In the fourth quarter, lower ethanol prices and higher plant maintenance expenses in a few product lines contributed to a small decrease in profitability.
Results in Industrial & Financial Services were slightly below those of the prior fiscal year. Returns from fund investments were lower. The fourth quarter was softer overall. Cargill’s risk management and trade finance activities jointly posted higher earnings.“Our strong results show we are creating the connections the world needs for vibrant food and agriculture both today and tomorrow,” said David MacLennan, Cargill's chairman and chief executive officer, when Minneapolis-based Cargill gave results July 12. "Cargill has always moved food from where it is produced to where it is needed. Today, we are pioneering new capabilities and partnerships to invest for the future. We are innovating alongside our customers to develop healthy, delicious products made the way consumers want. We are working with farmers and others to implement sustainable agricultural practices, and we are standing up for inclusive global trade that lets food move freely.”