Bunge income falls despite edible oil boost

by Jeff Gelski
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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Bunge Ltd.’s net income dropped 66% in the year ended Dec. 31, 2009, even though the Edible Oil Products segment performed strongly, the company reported Feb. 4. Net income of $361 million compared with $1,064 million in the previous fiscal year. Fiscal-year sales fell 20% to $41,926 million from $52,574 million.

The Fertilizer segment dragged down earnings. Fertilizer suffered a loss before interest and taxes of $616 million, which compared with earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of $321 million in the previous fiscal year.

The Edible Oil Products segment recorded fiscal-year EBIT of $181 million, which compared with a loss of $11 million before interest and taxes in the previous fiscal year. Sales in Edible Oil Products dropped 25% to $6,184 million from $8,216 million.

Edible Oil Products was particularly strong in the fourth quarter, ringing up EBIT of $114 million, which compared with a loss before interest and taxes of $47 million in the previous year’s fourth quarter.

Improved performance in Brazil and the addition of Raisio to the company’s European business contributed to higher results in margarine, according to Bunge. The company reported a gain of $66 million on the sale of its joint venture interest in Saipol.

Milling Products recorded fiscal-year EBIT of $58 million, down 44% from $104 million in the previous fiscal year. Fiscal-year sales fell 16% to $1,527 million from $1,810 million.

Fiscal-year EBIT for Agribusiness was $820 million, down 14% from $949 million. Fiscal-year sales for Agribusiness fell 17% to $30,511 million from $36,688 million.

Companywide, Bunge Ltd. gave a full-year earnings guidance of $5.75 to $6.25 per share for 2010. Capital expenditures should range between $750 million to $850 million, of which about 25% will be invested in maintenance, safety and environmental projects.

“Record harvests in North America and projections for record soybean production in South America, combined with an improved global demand picture should result in higher volumes for agribusiness and food and ingredients,” said Jacqualyn Fouse, chief financial officer, of 2010.

In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2009, Bunge Ltd. companywide had net income of $11 million, which compared with a loss of $210 million in the previous fiscal year. Fourth-quarter sales fell 5% to $10,436 million from $10,943 million.

“Bunge’s earnings in the fourth quarter represent a disappointing end to a mixed, and ultimately challenging, year for Bunge,” said Alberto Weisser, chairman and chief executive officer. “In 2009, fertilizer generated significant losses, which stemmed from a difficult market characterized by high-cost inventory and a weak price environment.

“We performed well in agribusiness, however, and produced strong results in edible oils.”

Bunge Ltd. shares on the New York Stock Exchange were selling at $58.10 per share late in the morning on Feb. 4, down from a Feb. 3 close of $60.50 per share.

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