MAUMEE, OHIO, U.S. — Buoyed by momentum from the integration of Lansing Trade Group that by all accounts is going well, The Andersons is set up for a strong fiscal 2019, the company’s top executive said.
Net income for the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, totaled $41.5 million, equal to $1.47 per share on the common stock, down 2.5% from $42.5 million, or $1.51 per share, in fiscal 2017. Fiscal 2017 results included an income tax benefit of $63.1 million while fiscal 2018 results included an income tax provision of $11.9 million.
Revenue for the year was $3.045 billion, down 17% from $3.686 billion. The decline in revenues in part reflected the adoption of new accounting rules at the beginning of 2018 that affected sales transactions with the Grain Group, the company said.
“Our 2018 company results were considerably better than those of 2017,” Patrick E. Bowe, president and chief executive officer, said during a Feb. 14 conference call with analysts. “I’m optimistic that we will see continued improvement in 2019, especially as we integrate Lansing. While the Trade Group is showing good early signs and rail continues to steadily improve, we’ll remain guarded in the near term about the prospects for Ethanol and Plant Nutrient. The Lansing acquisition and the ELEMENT project give us more confidence that we’ll achieve the 2020 EBITDA target of $300 million on an operating basis that we set in late 2017.”
The Grain Group generated a pretax income of $26.7 million in fiscal 2018, up 108% from $12.8 million in fiscal 2017. Revenues fell 32% to $1.437 billion from $2.106 billion.
“We had our best fourth quarter in the grain business since 2011,” Bowe said. “…The Grain Group rebounded from a tough third quarter as corn and soybean basis values improved largely as we expected. However, weak spreads contracted sharply during the quarter, leading to a full-year decrease in base income per bushel. Large U.S. carryouts in corn and soybeans limited trading opportunities while increasing storage income. Lansing had a strong quarter on an operating basis.
“We successfully closed on the Lansing acquisition at the beginning of 2019. This transaction aligns very well with our overall growth strategy as it supports growth in grain originations, merchandising and specialty food and feed ingredients. It broadens our portfolio of products and services, and it expands our geographic reach.”
Elaborating on the Grain Group, Bowe said he sees “some interesting export opportunities” that could pop up in the second half of 2019 and help drive trading opportunities. The addition of Lansing also has given the company a more diversified range of customer mix and feed ingredients, pet food products and specialty grains, he said.
“So we’re cautiously optimistic about how the next chapter is going to be,” he said. “The trade war was a big thing that’s going to impact everyone, so we’ll see how that plays out and watch how the farmer gets into planting season this spring.”
The company’s pretax income for its Ethanol Group was $22.1 million, up from $18.9 million in 2017. Ethanol’s revenue rose to $743.7 million from $708.1 million in the same period a year ago.
“Despite industry margin headwinds, the Ethanol Group was profitable during the fourth quarter,” Bowe said. “The group’s achievements were driven by timely hedging and continuing production efficiency despite higher industry stocks and seasonally low demand.”
He said The Andersons is making good progress on the construction of a new biorefinery in Kansas that will allow the company to introduce some new products later this year. He added that the company still expects to begin producing conventional lower carbon ethanol in mid-2019.
After sustaining a loss of $45.1 million in fiscal 2017, The Andersons Plant Nutrient Group rebounded to post income of $12.03 million in fiscal 2018. Revenue for the year was $690.5 million, up 6% from $651.8 million in the same period a year ago.
“The Plant Nutrient Group posted better results compared to those of late 2017,” Bowe said. “Wholesale nutrient results improved year-over-year on stronger primary nutrient margins, but specialty nutrient margins suffered further, even though volumes were up.”
The Rail Group’s pretax income for the year was $17.4 million, down 30% from $24.8 million. Rail revenue increased to $174.2 million from $172.1 million in 2017.
“The railcar market continues to steadily improve,” Bowe said. “While these rates are rising for most car types, in many cases, renewal rates are still lower than the rates they’re replacing. Our utilization rate rose again sequentially to its highest level in recent history at 94%, and we continue to buy cars in the secondary market.”