MINNEAPOLIS — Strong performance in the global group of meat and animal nutrition businesses contributed to a 33% increase in earnings at Cargill in the third quarter. Net income in the quarter ended Feb. 28 was $425 million, up from $319 million in the year-ago period. Through nine months, the company earned $1.63 billion, up 13% from last year.
Revenues in the third quarter fell 11% to $28.4 billion.
“Cargill’s results were led by strong performance in our global group of meat and animal nutrition businesses,” said David MacLennan, president and chief executive officer. “In volatile petroleum markets, we saw a rebound in our energy businesses, having gained momentum from strategic changes made in the prior fiscal year. Faced with slowing growth and currency shifts in a range of markets, our food segment lagged expectations.”
Macroeconomic headwinds in several regions kept earnings in the company’s Food Ingredients and Applications segment below the prior-year period. Cargill said slowing economic growth and excess processing capacity in developing markets such as China, Brazil and Indonesia created a difficult operating environment, while the strong value of the U.S. dollar against depreciating currencies like the euro and Brazilian real also hampered results. Cargill revalued certain food and salt assets in Venezuela and took a charge against earnings after the country’s government restructured its foreign exchange mechanisms. By contrast, results in U.S. road salt and deicing were up significantly over a good quarter last year, with teams executing well through a harsh winter in the U.S. Northeast. Some of the segment’s food ingredient and staple foods businesses also posted improved earnings, Cargill said.
Earnings rose year-on-year in Origination and Processing behind strong performance in North America and external events that reduced segment results in the comparable quarter, including China’s rejection of U.S. corn cargoes containing an unapproved bioengineered trait and service disruptions to North American railways due to severe weather. In the current period, the combination of record U.S. crops, a robust export pull and limited supply from South America created healthy volumes in the North American crush sector, Cargill said. Grain origination and farmer services in Canada also were strong, the company noted, supported by the country’s good-sized 2014 crop and continued carryover from 2013’s record deliveries. Meanwhile, Russian restrictions on wheat exports, changes in the export competitiveness of different origins and events such as a truckers’ strike in Brazil created challenges in some markets.
During the quarter, Cargill completed the acquisition of Poliplant Group, an Indonesian palm oil producer. Cargill said the new assets should allow its palm oil business “to take efficient, cost-effective steps in building an integrated supply chain that meets customers’ needs for sustainable palm oil.” The company also started up its new canola oil refinery in Clavet, Saskatchewan. With an annual refining capacity of about 450,000 tonnes, Cargill said it expects the facility to better serve customers in the expanding North American canola market.
The largest contribution to third-quarter earnings came from the Animal Nutrition and Protein segment. On a combined basis, the animal protein businesses were up considerably over a solid quarter in the prior year, with strong performance in Australian beef processing, Central American poultry, and U.S. pork and turkey processing, Cargill said.Earnings within the Industrial and Financial Services unit fell on lower results in asset management. The segment’s energy businesses staged a rebound after a price spike in U.S. power markets marred results a year ago. In the recent period, the energy team navigated the decline in global crude oil prices and the volatility in petroleum markets that followed.