Corn Products net climbs 35% in fiscal 2008

by Eric Schroeder
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WESTCHESTER, ILL. — Net income at Corn Products International, Inc. rose 35% in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, climbing to $267.2 million, equal to $3.59 per share on the common stock, from $197.8 million, or $2.65 per share, in fiscal 2007. Bunge Ltd.’s November decision to end its acquisition bid for Corn Products hurt full-year results by 14c per share. Sales for fiscal 2008 rose to $3,943.6 million, up 16% from $3,390.9 million.

The strong full-year results were in contrast to a sluggish fourth quarter in which Corn Products’ earnings were essentially flat at $46.4 million, or 62c per share, which compared with $46.1 million, or 62c per share, in the same quarter a year ago. The decision to end the acquisition bit hurt quarterly results by 9c per share. Performance also was dragged down by softer volumes, a stronger U.S. dollar and high starch and sweetener product prices.

In North America, operating income in fiscal 2008 was $313.2 million, up 34% compared with $233.9 million during fiscal 2007. Sales for the full year were up 15% to $2,369.4 million compared with $2,051.6 million during fiscal 2007. Corn Products said the strong earnings reflected pricing actions throughout the region, while sales were driven by improved price/product mix of $373 million.

Operating income within the South America division rose to $150.8 million in fiscal 2008, up 32% from $114.6 million. Contributing to the better earnings were significant increases in Brazil and the Southern Cone. Sales rose 21% to $1,120.3 million.

In Asia/Africa, operating income in fiscal 2008 was $38.4 million, down 15% from $45.3 million. Sales, meanwhile, rose 10% to $453.9 million, up from $414.4 million.

Looking ahead, Corn Products said it expects 2009 profit to come in well below analysts’ estimates partly on increased corn costs and a stronger U.S. dollar. The company anticipates full-year earnings of $2.10 to $2.60 per share, which would be below analysts’ estimates of $3.14 per share.

Corn Products said its results will be hurt by lower co-products credits, especially from corn oil, which will boost corn costs. Its performance also will be adversely affected by the stronger U.S. dollar and volume and pricing uncertainty.

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