Bunge off to solid start behind rebound in sugar and energy

by Eric Schroeder
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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Net income at Bunge Ltd. in the first quarter ended March 31 totaled $170 million, equal to $1.15 per share on the common stock, up 102% from $84 million, or 57c per share, in the same period a year ago.

Net sales during the first quarter of fiscal 2013 were $14,785 million, up 15% from $12,909 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2012.

“We had a solid first quarter,” said Alberto Weisser, chairman and chief executive officer. “Our agribusiness team performed well, managing risk in a volatile market environment characterized by tight global supplies and challenging Brazilian logistics. We are pleased to see sugar and bioenergy get off to a good start to the year, and that food and ingredients continued its strong performance from the second half of last year.

“Looking ahead, agribusiness markets are transitioning from ones of tightness to more comfortable supplies. Customer inventory pipelines are lean and in need of restocking, so demand should remain strong. Farmers in South America responded with record production and farmers in the Northern Hemisphere are expected to respond similarly. The logistics congestion in Brazil is improving, but delays will continue to persist until the U.S. harvest later this year. We see positive signs in sugar and bioenergy as the weather in the Center-South of Brazil has been ideal for cane development and early readings of ATR, the sugar content in the cane, are on track to return to more normal levels. We expect food and ingredients results to continue to improve throughout the year.”

For Agribusiness, first quarter EBIT fell to $191 million from $197 million, while sales rose 16% to $10,774 million from $9,317 million.

“Improved oilseed processing results in the quarter were more than offset by lower results in grain merchandising,” Bunge said. “Our merchandising business benefited from strong global demand for Brazilian corn and soybean exports; however, lower grain origination in Argentina and the Northern Hemisphere due to tight supplies adversely impacted results. Soybean processing was higher in all geographies with the largest contribution coming from the U.S., which benefited from strong export demand due to tight supplies and delays in South American harvests. Results in softseed processing in Canada and Europe were lower due to margin pressure from weather-related supply shortages and slow farmer selling.”

The Edible Oil Products segment had first-quarter EBIT of $38 million, up 81% from $21 million, and sales of $2,297 million, up 3% from $2,221 million. Bunge said the improved results primarily were due to better performance in Brazil, which experienced a challenging prior-year period, and in India, which more than offset lower results in North America and Europe.

For Milling Products, first-quarter EBIT was $36 million, up 33% from $27 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales for the quarter also were higher, increasing 25% to $535 million from $427 million. Bunge said higher results in the quarter primarily were due to improved performance in the company’s Brazilian wheat milling business, which experienced a challenging prior-year period, and contributions from the 2012 acquisition in Mexico, which more than offset lower results in corn milling.

Bunge posted EBIT of $23 million in its Sugar & Bioenergy segment, which compared with a loss of $33 million during the first quarter of fiscal 2012. Net sales increased 26% to $1,113 million from $881 million.

In the Fertilizer segment, Bunge had EBIT of $35 million, which compared with a loss of $12 million a year ago. Sales rose to $66 million from $63 million.

Looking ahead, Drew Burke, chief financial officer, said Bunge remains confident about 2013, although he noted that results likely will be weighted more to the back half of the year than previously expected.

He said demand for agricultural commodities has been strong and should continue to draw exports out of South America. In addition, solid performance is expected to continue in the company’s food and ingredients operations, he said.

“We should extract greater value from our recent acquisitions and improve our operating efficiencies with the start-up of operations at our new multi-oil refining facility in India and our new refining and packaging facility in Decatur, Ala.,” Mr. Burke said.
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