MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Net profit after tax at AWB Ltd. totaled A$8.5 million ($6.6 million) in the first half of fiscal 2009, down 62% from A$22.3 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales, meanwhile, rose 9% to A$3,495.3 million ($2,724.9 million), driven by increased activity in Australian grain marketing.

Gordon Davis, managing director for AWB Ltd., said the Australian Commodities, AWB Geneva and Landmark Financial Services divisions performed well in the first half, while Landmark Rural Services and AWB Brazil underperformed.

"The first half was impacted by continuing adverse seasonal conditions in parts of rural Australia, weak demand for fertilizer, and a poor performance by our operations in Brazil," Mr. Davis said.

Within the Australian commodities management division, solid first-half results were driven by grain origination, sales and chartering.

"The division capitalized on the opportunities presented by the deregulation of the Australian bulk wheat export market and acquired approximately 5.9 million tonnes of wheat, or over 25% of the 2008-09 wheat crop," he said. "In addition, the logistics business result improved significantly, due to increased volume in GrainFlow sites, as well as good performance from chartering.

"International commodities management division had a mixed first half with Geneva achieving a strong result driven by the grain, oilseed and freight businesses, however, the performance of our operations in Brazil was poor and we have taken steps to address this unacceptable result. We have restructured the management team in Brazil and are refocusing and reducing the business into more commercially stable activities."