Favorable oilseeds performance boosts earnings at ADM

by Eric Schroeder
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CHICAGO — Earnings at Archer Daniels Midland Co. increased 85% in the first quarter of fiscal 2015, boosted by better results from its agricultural services and oilseeds businesses and the Wild flavors business it bought in 2014.

Net income in the first quarter ended March 31 totaled $493 million, equal to 77c per share on the common stock, up from $267 million, or 40c per share, in the same period a year ago. Revenues fell 15% to $17,506 million from $20,696 million.

“In the first quarter, the ADM team demonstrated their ability to leverage the strength of our diversified business model,” Juan Luciano, president and chief executive officer, said during a May 5 conference call with analysts. “The Oilseeds team capitalized on favorable market conditions and delivered outstanding results with strong performances in each region. In Ag Services, our recently created global trade desk or GTD platform, drove higher merchandise volumes. Our new Wild flavors and Specialty Ingredients business was off to a great start toward achieving the cost in revenue synergies we identified last year.

“Together, this performance has helped deliver a good quarter overall, even as slower industry ethanol margins limited earnings in corn and the strong dollar limited U.S. grain exports. We have continued to advance the strategic plan we shared at our December investor day. In the area of optimizing the core, we announced the acquisition of a Belgian oil bottling business, helping us reach a wider customer base and creating a new output for our European crushing assets. And the W.F.S.I. (Wild Flavors and Specialty Ingredients) team has been working with customers as they developed and launched new products using SCI, Wild, and ADM ingredients. We have more than 200 joint customer engagements building a pipeline of more than 400 projects, resulting already in more than 30 revenue synergy wins across a number of regions and businesses unit in Q1 alone.”

In the area of driving operational efficiencies, Mr. Luciano said ADM already has identified more than $200 million in run rate savings opportunities toward its goal of $550 million in five years.

“In the area of strategic expansion, the Corn Processing business expanded in high-growth geographies with the acquisition of the remaining stake of corn wet mills in Bulgaria and Turkey and an increased stake in a facility in Hungary,” he said.

Operating profit in the Oilseeds Processing unit was $469 million, up 58% from $297 million in the same period a year ago. Crushing and origination profit increased to $334 million from $161 million.

“The Oilseeds team delivered an outstanding quarter,” Mr. Luciano said. “Crushing and origination had great performances in each region. In North America, the team demonstrated the value of our strong footprint and our expected destination supply chain. Eight to 10 months ago, they determined Q1 will see an extended North American export window. They got maintenance out of the way and positioned soybean supplies so when the margins arrived, they were able to run hard until the seasonal shift to South America came.”

Agricultural Services operating profit increased 37% to $194 million from $142 million, as milling and other results improved to $55 million from $40 million during the quarter.

Wild Flavors and Specialty Ingredients operating profit totaled $68 million in the first quarter, up from $58 million a year ago.

Meanwhile, operating profit within the Corn Processing unit fell 40% to $113 million from $186 million.

“In sweeteners and starches, our underlying North American business is doing well with higher margins and volumes in Q1,” Mr. Luciano said. “This was offset by lower contributions from core products, reduced equity earnings from joint ventures, and the start-up costs related to the TNG sweetener facility. And in Bioproducts, earnings were lower due to lower ethanol production volumes and weaker industry margins. Supply and demand imbalances challenged industry ethanol margins most of the quarter though conditions and margins have been improving since late March.

“Let me explain our corn results a bit further. We said before that we make decisions that will achieve the best overall results for ADM. This quarter, with low industry margins, we made a decision to run our ethanol operations for margins rather than volumes. That helped our earnings in Bioproducts. It also had the effect of reducing our production of core products, which limited our earnings in sweeteners and starches. Bottom line, the impact to our overall core business was positive.”
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