Excluding certain items, earnings were $373 million or $1.58 per share. Net sales dropped 19.7% to $10.81 billion.
“Our Agribusiness operations in North America, Europe and Brazil performed well, capitalizing on
strong soybean crushing margins and executing high margin oilseed export programs. Food &
Ingredients continued to make progress with its commercial and operational excellence programs, largely offsetting the impacts of significant foreign currency devaluations and slowing economies in certain markets,” said Soren Schroder, Bunge’s chief executive officer.
In Oilseeds, North American processing and global oilseed trading & distribution were the largest contributors to the improved performance. North American processing benefited from high crush margins resulting from strong global demand and higher volume. Results in the trading & distribution business were higher as Bunge executed oilseed export programs at attractive margins. Processing results in Brazil were good.
Higher soybean processing results in Europe were more than offset by weak softseed performance caused by slow farmer selling. Results in Asia were higher as soy processing margins in China improved from the depressed levels seen for most of 2014.
In Grains, higher results in the quarter were largely due to improved performance in global trading & distribution, which benefitted from improved risk management and lower ocean freight costs.
Grain origination results in Brazil were strong, having experienced a significant pick up in volume during March with the devaluation of the Real, but were lower than last year. Grain origination results in most other regions were down, primarily due to slow farmer selling.
Results in the quarter for Edible Oil Products were significantly higher than the prior year, primarily driven by North America and Europe. The U.S operations benefited from the combination of higher margins and lower costs, reflecting initiatives to improve asset efficiency and margins. In Europe, results benefited from effective commercial strategies and ongoing focus on costs which largely offset the impacts of devaluing currencies and slowing economies in certain markets. Results in Brazil were comparable to last year as commercial and operational improvement programs helped offset the impacts of currency devaluation, slowing economic growth and higher energy prices.
Higher results for Milling Products in the quarter were driven by improved performance in wheat milling. The Mexican operations benefitted from higher margins, additional synergies from the integration of the mills acquired from Altex and the recovery of mark-to-market losses on foreign exchange which were incurred in the fourth quarter.
Results in Brazilian wheat milling operations were slightly higher than last year as the continued focus on operational and commercial improvements more than offset the impacts of foreign currency translation. In U.S. corn milling, results were slightly lower due to a decrease in volumes.
“Looking ahead, demand remains solid. Soybean harvests in South America are historically large, which aligns well with our footprint, and farmers in the region have much of their harvests remaining to be priced. Farmers in the Northern Hemisphere are expected to plant large crops, which should drive high asset utilizations later in the year,” Schroder said. “We expect strong returns to continue through the course of the year, while also growing earnings on a trajectory to reach our 2017 target of $8.50 per share.
“We continue to follow our strategy of investing in our core businesses. Earlier this month, we announced the creation of a joint venture to invest in the Canadian Wheat Board. This investment, which provides access to high quality Canadian grain, improves the balance of our global grain network and provides greater market opportunities for Canadian growers. We remain committed to our balanced approach to capital allocation, and during the first quarter we bought back $200 million of common shares.”