Bunge share price falls as quarterly profit plunges

by Eric Schroeder
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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Shares of Bunge Ltd. fell as much as 11% in early trading on July 25 after earnings at the global agribusiness and food company failed to meet expectations. Net income at Bunge Ltd. in the second quarter ended June 30 totaled $110 million, equal to 75c per share on the common stock, down 58% from $265 million, or $1.78 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Net sales during the second quarter of fiscal 2013 were $15,491 million, up 7% from $14,499 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2012.

After closing at $74.22 on July 24, Bunge’s share price on July 25 fell as low as $66.15 before rebounding at mid-morning to $72.86.

“The first half of the year came in generally as we expected, and we are anticipating a strong second half,” said Soren Schroder, chief executive officer. “In the second quarter, in agribusiness our Brazilian operations generated strong results executing record volumes under challenging logistical conditions. We navigated the choppy markets well, but faced some challenges in North America, Europe and Argentina, which suffered from the continued effects of last year’s poor oilseed and grain crops.

“In sugar and bioenergy, we are pleased to see our improvements in industrial operations, global risk and trade flow management begin to be reflected in better results. And food and ingredients delivered a record first half of the year due to improved volumes, margins, service levels and working closely with customers on procurement strategies.”

Mr. Schroder added good demand and large Northern Hemisphere crops “should drive robust commercial activity, asset utilization and global trade in agribusiness during the remainder of the year.” Additionally, Bunge expects continued strong performance in both milling and edible oils as the company launches new consumer and business-to-business edible oil products, he said.

For Agribusiness, second quarter EBIT fell to $170 million from $386 million, while sales rose 9% to $11,566 million from $10,580 million.

“Results were below last year, but within our expectations,” Bunge said. “Strong margins and volumes in our Brazilian operations were the primary driver of results in the quarter. Tight sunflower and rape seed supplies in Europe and last year’s poor grain crops in the Black Sea negatively impacted results in this region. Oilseed processing capacity utilization in North America was low for both soybeans and canola, hampered by last year’s drought which has reduced available raw material. U.S. grain exports were weak, reflecting the impact of the extreme drought last summer on corn production. Results in Argentina were lower due in part to slow farmer selling and the poor wheat crop. Oilseed processing results in Asia were comparable to last year.”

The Edible Oil Products segment had second-quarter EBIT of $34 million, up sharply from $2 million, and sales of $2,376 million, up narrowly from $2,331 million. Bunge said the improved results primarily were due to significant operational improvements and more efficient channel strategies, especially in Brazil and Eastern Europe.

For Milling Products, second-quarter EBIT was $29 million, down 34% from $44 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales for the quarter were higher, increasing 21% to $509 million from $421 million. Bunge said higher results in the quarter primarily were due to improved performance in the company’s Brazilian wheat milling business and U.S. corn dry milling operations. Also contributing to the better results were greater efficiencies in operations, working more closely with the company’s largest customers on procurement strategies and the successful integration of Bunge’s Mexico wheat mill acquisition.

Bunge sustained a loss before interest and tax of $3 million in its Sugar & Bioenergy segment, which compared with a loss of $28 million during the second quarter of fiscal 2012. Net sales decreased 13% to $939 million from $1,079 million.

Despite some short-term struggles, Mr. Schroder said Bunge is optimistic about the long term, as markets, while competitive, are growing steadily. He said the company is taking steps to enhance its global performance management system, which will intensify the company’s continuous improvement and operational excellence efforts to drive higher returns through more granular management of business unit performance. Bunge also is adjusting its capital management and investment approach.

“As a first step, we are reducing our 2013 capex by $200 million and commencing a review of 2014 plans,” Mr. Schroder said. “Projects that more immediately improve efficiencies and competitiveness — and that generate faster payback — will be priorities for Bunge. We’ll also be mindful of balancing the need to continue to pursue growth opportunities while generating compelling, consistent value for shareholders as we assess our capital management framework. We look forward to sharing more details in the coming months.”

In the six months ended June 30 net income was $280 million, or $1.90 per share, down 20% from $349 million, or $2.37 per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales were $30,276 million, up 10% from $27,408 million.

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