Bunge EBIT slips as agribusiness faces challenges

by Eric Schroeder
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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A decline in crop prices and sluggish farmer selling in South America crimped agribusiness results at Bunge Ltd., contributing to lower EBIT in the third quarter of fiscal 2014. Total segment EBIT in the quarter ended Sept. 30 was $316 million, down 15% from $371 million in the same period a year ago.

Net income in the quarter totaled $284 million, equal to $1.90 per share on the common stock, which compared with a loss of $165 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2013, when Bunge’s results were affected adversely by $591 million in income tax expense. Net sales for the third quarter were $13,676 million, down 7% from $14,701 million a year ago.

“Third-quarter results were lower than last year. However, Bunge is in a strong position to meet or exceed our full-year, combined return target of 1.5 points above cost of capital in Agribusiness and Food & Ingredients,” said Soren Schroder, chief executive officer.

Earnings before interest and taxes in Bunge’s Agribusiness sector totaled $186 million in the third quarter, down 43% from $326 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales were down 8% at $9,835 million.

“Adjusting for temporary mark-to-market impacts, Agribusiness results were within our range of expectations,” Mr. Schroder said. “The transition from tight to plentiful global grain and oilseed supplies, highlighted by falling prices and some of the slowest farmer selling in recent memory in South America, created a challenging market environment in the third quarter. Our Agribusiness team managed the associated risks well. Looking ahead, strong crushing margins and high utilizations at export facilities throughout the Northern Hemisphere should deliver a good fourth quarter.”

Milling Products EBIT rose 54% in the third quarter to $37 million from $24 million while sales advanced 6% to $516 million. Higher results in the quarter reflected improved performance in the company’s Brazilian wheat milling business, which benefitted from better margins and production yields, and the addition of new wheat mills in Mexico, Bunge said.

Edible Oil Products EBIT totaled $37 million in the quarter, down 14% from $43 million a year ago. Net sales also declined, falling to $2,016 million from $2,225 million.

“In Food & Ingredients, Milling continued its good performance, and we made steady progress on our improvement efforts in Edible Oils, although results in that business were impacted by logistics issues and tight raw material supply in North America,” Mr. Schroder said. “The fourth quarter is a period of seasonally strong demand for Food & Ingredients, and this, combined with additional contributions from improvement initiatives, should help us reach another record year for the segment.”

In Sugar and Bioenergy, Bunge rebounded from a loss of $37 million to post EBIT of $44 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2014. Net sales were $1,154 million, up narrowly from $1,133 million.

“Sugar & Bioenergy produced solid results, and we are on track to finish the year EBIT and free cash flow neutral,” Mr. Schroder said. “We are pleased with the progress to date to stabilize the business, and we have a strong team committed to operate it to be profitable and self-funding as we work to further improve its returns.”

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, net income at Bunge was $529 million, or $3.58 per share, up sharply from $115 million, or 78c per share, in the same period a year ago. Total segment EBIT, meanwhile, was $809 million, down 13% from $933 million, and sales were $43,930 million, down 2% from $44,972 million.
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