CHICAGO — Boosted by strong results across several of its major operating segments, second-quarter earnings surged at Archer Daniels Midland Co.
ADM net income in the period ended June 30 was $566 million, equal to $1 per share on the common stock, up 105% from $276 million, or 48c per share, in the second quarter of 2017. Net sales were $17,068 million, up 14% from $14,943 million. Adjusted for special items in the prior year period, 2018 second-quarter earnings were up 79%
“Our team executed exceptionally well to deliver outstanding results in the second quarter,” said Juan R. Luciano, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We continue to accelerate the execution of our strategic plan — optimizing our core, driving efficiencies, and expanding strategically — generating more than $150 million in run-rate savings, announcing three acquisitions in Nutrition, and closing on two new joint ventures overseas. Our actions, combined with robust global demand, position us to navigate today’s dynamic business environment and deliver strong results in the second half of 2018, and put us on a trajectory for continued future growth in earnings, returns and shareholder value.”
On a percentage basis, ADM’s Origination segment enjoyed the widest gain in profits. Second-quarter operating profits were $189 million, up 232% from $57 million in the second quarter of 2017. Sales were $6,606 million, up 24%.
“Merchandising and handling was up substantially year-over-year,” the company said. “North American grain was a major contributor, as supply disruptions in Argentina and Brazil led to strong global demand for U.S. commodities, resulting in significantly higher volumes and margins for corn, wheat and soybean exports. Grain also benefited from solid risk management in basis positions, and from timing impacts from the first quarter.
“Global trade’s diversified earnings base contributed positively to results, as losses related to the potential sorghum duty deposits were offset by strong performances in other areas, particularly ocean freight. Destination marketing volumes continued to grow in the quarter.
“Transportation was significantly higher year-over-year, driven by increased volumes as U.S. waterways returned to more normal conditions. Transportation also benefited from ARTCO’s growing businesses in backhaul freight and stevedoring.”
During a July 31 conference call with investment analysts, Ray G. Young, executive vice-president and chief financial officer, offered further detail on the segment’s strong quarter.
“The short crops in South America, as well as increased purchases from that region by China in anticipation of tariffs, offered motivation for other buyers to come to the U.S.,” he said. “The result was significantly higher volumes and margins for corn, wheat and soybean exports. The team also managed risk extremely well.”
Asked how the strong quarterly results will play out longer term, Mr. Young said it was important to distinguish benefits from actions the company has taken from the impact of an improved operating environment.
“The improvements that we’re making across all of our businesses are going to continue to drive significant earnings in the future,” he said. “You layer on top of that the fact that the environment that we’re experiencing right now, with particularly short crops around the world, stock-to-use ratios going down and global demand for protein continues to be strong. It creates an environment whereby, effectively, the margin environment in our businesses are returning back to a more normal level, which is important as we think about future earnings.”
Oilseeds operating profits were $341 million in the second quarter, up 70% from $201 million in the same period last year. Sales were $6,675 million, up 11%.
Accounting for the higher profits was a surge in crushing/origination profitability. Profits from refining, packaging, biodiesel and other were up just slightly. ADM cited “record crush volumes” together with strong soybean meal demand and “robust crush margins.”
“In South America, high origination volumes and improved margins, largely driven by more aggressive farmer selling and robust demand from China, contributed to strong results,” ADM said. “Timing effects for the quarter were a net positive.”
Mr. Luciano was upbeat about the oilseeds business.
“We are very optimistic and very confident about the sustainability of the results and the strength of the business,” he said. “Not only crush margins are very strong, but demand is very strong.”
A weaker link during the quarter was the ADM Carbohydrates Solutions segment, with operating profit of $249 million, down 11% from $279 million in the second quarter last year. Sales were $2,668 million, up 4.6%. While North American liquid sweeteners performed well in the quarter, in line with the year before, ADM said flour milling was impacted by negative timing effects, and lower volumes in Caribbean operations. The timing effects will reverse in coming months, Mr. Young said.
Regarding corn sweeteners, Mr. Young said the company initiated “important upgrades” needed at the company’s corn complex in Decatur, Ill. The projects resulted in down time, which elevated costs and an issue expected to extend into the second half of the year.
Contrary to comments from another corn refiner, the overall corn sweetener market has been fairly stable, Mr. Young said.
“We’re not seeing any change,” he said. “In fact, what’s interesting is when we actually look at the total demand for nonsucrose sweeteners — dextrose, fructose and glucose — when you look at the trend lines here in the United States since 2010, it’s actually stabilized at about 25 billion lbs of consumption. And we’ve actually seen growth in the glucose syrups in both beverage applications and nonfood applications. And that’s kind of offset some of the decline in some of the other areas. So what’s really encouraging is that the demand profile in the U.S. industry for our nonsucrose sweeteners is actually very stable. And with supply/demand balances remaining tight, we remain pretty optimistic over the medium term for this business here.”
Operating profits from the company’s Nutrition business were $114 million, up 21% from $94 million in the second quarter last year. Sales were $1,018 million, up 9%.
“WFSI results were up substantially versus the second quarter of 2017, with Specialty Ingredients, Wild Flavors and Health & Wellness all delivering improved sales and earnings,” the company said. “Specialty ingredients benefited from improved volumes and margins in proteins, and from increased sales in fibers. In Wild Flavors, new business and an improved portfolio mix boosted sales and margins.”
Year-to-date net income at ADM was $959 million, or $1.70 per share, up 56% from $615 million, or $1.07. Revenues were $32,594 million, up 9% from $29,931 million.
Trade issues with China were discussed at various points during the call, but briefly.
Mr. Young credited the company with executing “particularly well during the China sorghum situation, making swift and smart decisions to mitigate some of the negative impacts.” Because of the actions, the impact on financial results was smaller than the company had anticipated. He said “robust demand from China” helped lift Oilseeds results.
“Naturally, we’re monitoring the U.S.-China trade situation closely and are prepared for various potential outcomes,” Mr. Luciano said. “We believe the situation is manageable in the near term, and we’re confident of delivering solid execution and strong results.”
Mr. Luciano offered an update on what ADM is calling its “readiness efforts,” which appears to be a restructuring program currently underway. He said the assessment phase has been completed with implementation now getting started. Responding to a question, Mr. Luciano implied the program could generate around $1 billion in cost savings over the next several years.