Cargill earnings up sharply in second quarter

by Eric Schroeder
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MINNEAPOLIS — Boosted by earnings gains in four of its five business units, overall net income at Cargill rose to $409 million in the second quarter ended Nov. 30, 2012, up sharply from $100 million in the same period a year ago. Revenues in the second quarter also increased, climbing 6% to $35.2 billion.

“Cargill posted a solid second quarter, with earnings balanced and diversified across the breadth of the company,” said Greg Page, chairman and chief executive officer. “The steps we’ve taken over the past months to focus attention on what our customers value most, change how we work, instill more cost discipline and invest in growth are paying off in the current year. Most importantly, these changes are key to delivering sustainable growth year in and year out.”

Strong global trading and risk management results in more fundamentally driven markets and an improved margin environment in oilseed processing in several regions boosted earnings in Cargill’s origination and processing segment to well above the year-ago level.

Improved earnings also were noted in the agriculture services segment, driven in large part to better operating results in animal nutrition, the company said. Cargill said rising feed ingredient costs were a challenge, but performance in the segment was enhanced by the integration of Provimi, which the company said has brought more nutritional expertise, technology and products to the portfolio since the company was acquired in 2011. The North American farm services businesses benefited from large grain shipments in Canada, but the impact of drought-reduced crops in the Midwest held U.S. results below the year-ago level, Cargill said.

Cargill’s risk management and financial segment reversed course from a year ago, rebounding from a loss in the second quarter of fiscal 2012 to post an earnings gain in the second quarter of fiscal 2013. Last year’s results were bogged down by a period when financial markets were stressed by debt turmoil in the United States and Europe. More recently, the segment’s asset management activities established a better position in which to benefit from stronger financial markets and improved investor sentiment. The segment’s energy businesses were essentially flat with last year on a combined basis.

Earnings rose in Cargill’s industrial segment, although deicing salt production volume lagged typical levels due to the inventory carryover from last year’s mild North American winter.

The one segment that did not post an earnings gain in the second quarter was the food ingredients and applications segment, which eased from the year-ago quarter. The segment is made up of two groups of businesses: food ingredients and animal protein.

“Combined earnings in food ingredients were down moderately from last year’s strong performance,” Cargill said. “The slippage was mostly related to excess capacity in the North American ethanol market and the return of profits in some product lines to more normalized levels. The animal protein businesses posted a combined profit compared with a loss last year when processing margins in the U.S. beef industry were sharply negative. Most of the meat businesses benefited from improved volumes or margins in the current period, even though results were tempered by higher raw material or livestock feeding costs.”

Cargill said it has shifted capital spending from acquisitions toward new, expanded and modernized facilities that support the growth objectives of customers and the company.

“We have a record $2.4 billion of large projects under construction in 13 countries,” Mr. Page said. “As these facilities come on line, they strengthen Cargill’s supply chain, risk management and innovation capabilities. We want our customers and stakeholders to think of Cargill first when they are looking for a solution or an opportunity. These investments help us better serve their needs and become the partner of choice.”

For the six months ended Nov. 30, earnings totaled $1.38 billion, up from $336 million in the same period a year ago. Net revenues rose to $69 billion from $67.9 billion.
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