DECATUR, ILLINOIS, U.S. — Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) is making progress on its strategy to enhance shareholder value by improving returns, and the company sees many more opportunities ahead, said President and Chief Operating Officer Juan Luciano on May 22.

“Our returns strategy is beginning to deliver for us, and we are just getting started,” Luciano told investors at the BMO Farm to Market conference in New York City, New York, U.S., adding that the strategy comprises several integrated elements, including capital allocation, costs, cash, portfolio-management and strategic growth.

He noted that the company’s trailing, four-quarter average adjusted return on invested capital of 6.9% at the end of the first quarter of 2014 represented an increase from 6.6% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2013, and an improvement of 140 basis points over the company’s first-quarter 2013 ROIC. ADM’s objective is to achieve, on average, ROIC of 200 basis points above its weighted average cost of capital, or WACC, over an agricultural cycle.  Based upon long-term WACC of 8%, ADM will aim to achieve, on average, a 10% ROIC when the U.S. interest rate environment returns to more normal historical levels.

ADM achieved its 2014 year-end goal of $200 million in run-rate cost savings more than a half-year ahead of schedule through an emphasis on maintenance, procurement, and improvements in energy efficiency and process technology, Luciano said. This success has led the company to double its cost-reduction target to a total of $400 million in run-rate savings by Dec. 31.

A more disciplined approach to capital allocation and planning has generated positive results as well, he added. The soybean crush operation ADM opened in Paraguay in May 2013 generated first-year ROIC of 11.3%. And through ongoing efforts to improve ADM’s cash position, the company has identified an additional $500 million in opportunities and is pursuing them aggressively, Luciano said.

Luciano noted that ADM had taken several recent actions to optimize its portfolio of businesses as part of the broader returns strategy.

“We’ve sold or are working to sell businesses that we don’t expect will meet our returns criteria long-term,” Luciano explained, citing as examples the pending sale of its South American fertilizer business to The Mosaic Company and efforts to sell ADM’s global chocolate and Brazilian sugar ethanol businesses.

“With businesses that can be improved, we’ve taken decisive steps to enhance performance, either by reducing invested capital, managing costs and production levels, or repurposing the asset entirely,” he said.

“Finally, there are situations where an acquisition, or increased ownership, is in the best interest of the company and our shareholders,” Luciano said, noting as an example ADM’s pending acquisition of the remaining 20 percent stake in Alfred C. Toepfer International G.m.b.H. 

Luciano closed his presentation with a review of how the company’s recently announced growth investments are aligned with efforts to create shareholder value.

The acquisition of a port in northern Brazil will strengthen the company’s ability to transport and export crops from key production regions, Luciano noted. A greenfield sweetener and soluble fiber complex in Tianjin, China, demonstrates how the company is expanding processing capabilities in key demand regions. And the construction of a $250 million protein specialties plant in Brazil illustrates the company’s commitment to extending its value chain by producing value-added ingredients for the food industry. The plant will produce innovative, value-added protein concentrates and isolates that add nutritional value to foods and beverages.

“Today, packaged-foods manufacturers are working to develop products that satisfy consumers’ desire for function, nutrition, texture and taste … and we have a strong portfolio to address these needs,” Luciano said.

He noted that ADM’s returns focus has helped create the high-performance culture needed to help ensure future success. “We implemented this strategy sequentially to ensure that we not only achieved our goals, but did so in a way that would embed new skills and practices in the organization so we can expand and sustain the gains,” Luciano said.