MAUMEE, OHIO, U.S. — Despite a boost from acquisition of the Lansing Trade Group, The Andersons still felt the impact of a late, wet harvest on its net income in 2019.
The company posted net income attributable to the Andersons of $18.3 million in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2019, equal to 56¢ per share on the common stock, down from $41.5 million, or $1.47 per share, in fiscal 2018. For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019, the company had net income of $6.6 million, or 19¢ per share, which compared with $23.8 million, or 84¢ per share, in the same period a year earlier.
“For the full year, it is very clear that our Lansing Trade Group acquisition has been and is expected to be a very good one,” said Patrick Bowe, president, chief executive officer and director of The Andersons, in a Feb. 13 conference call with investors. “However, while the Ethanol Group was consistently profitable, a tough margin environment drove the group’s year-over-year results significantly lower. Plant Nutrient Group was impacted by an extremely wet and shortened planting season in its core geographies, that, together with an expected decrease in contract manufacturing sales resulted in lower pretax income than in 2018.”
The Trade Group sustained a pretax loss of $19 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 but recorded adjusted pretax income of $18.5 million, which compared with pretax income of $24.2 million in the same period of 2018.
“Solid performance by many of the group’s new merchandising lines helped to mitigate the significant reduction in income from Eastern Corn Belt assets as a result of late planting and a small wet harvest,” said Brian Valentine, senior vice-president and chief financial officer during the earnings call.
The Ethanol Group had a solid quarter despite difficult market conditions, Valentine said. Pretax income attributable to the company for the fourth quarter was $7.2 million, up from $6.4 million in the same period a year earlier.
“Increased third-party Ethanol trading and hedging helped us during the quarter,” Valentine said. “However, margins continue to be hurt by elevated corn basis for the three Eastern plants. Production continued to ramp up and new technologies continue to be introduced at the Element biorefinery during the quarter, though less quickly than originally expected.”
The plant Nutrient Group recorded adjusted pretax income of $3.9 million in the fourth quarter, which was comparable to fourth quarter 2018 results. Lower operating and interest expenses were mostly offset by a small decrease in gross profit, Valentine said.
The Rail Group generated $4.5 million of pretax income in the fourth quarter, down from $6.7 million last year.
“Utilization averaged 89.4% for the quarter compared to 90.3% last quarter,” Valentine said. “Total cars controlled remained stable at 24,800 and average cars on lease fell slightly to 22,200 compared to the third quarter.”
Looking ahead to 2020, Bowe said the company is continuing to manage through what has been among the worst Eastern Corn Belt harvests on record.
“While the resolution of the China trade war should be a tailwind for both groups, it is unclear when and by how much that resolution will begin to drive demand,” he said.
A likely increase in corn planting in 2020 will help the Plant Nutrient Group improve results to a level more in line with recent history, Bowe said, and should be helpful for the three other business groups as well.
“We continue to feel more upbeat about our longer-term company outlook than what we reflected or what is reflected in the market of our current stock price,” Bowe said.