Wilmar International Ltd. (WIL), the world’s biggest palm oil processor, said its first-quarter profit gained 23 percent as earnings at its oilseeds unit rebounded.
Net income was $315.4 million in the three months ended March 31, from $255.9 million a year earlier, the Singapore- based company said today in a statement. That compares with the $296.5 million average estimate of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sales decreased 2.6 percent to $10.2 billion.
Wilmar’s oilseeds unit, which incurred a loss a year earlier, improved due to higher margins in soybean processing, the company said. China will probably import less soybeans, used for oil and livestock feed, this year as the outbreak of bird flu curbs poultry demand, a Wilmar executive said last month.
“The positive crush margins during the quarter were a result of lower cost of imported soybeans and higher local product prices, due to late arrival of soybeans in China,” Wilmar said today in the statement.
Shares were unchanged at S$3.31 in Singapore yesterday. The earnings were announced today before the stock market opened. The stock has slid one percent this year, compared with the 6.8 percent gain in the benchmark Straits Times index.
“In China, the bird flu will affect meal consumption in the short term, but is not expected to have a long term effect,” Chief Executive Officer Kuok Khoon Hong said in the statement.
The H7N9 virus has killed 26 people, as of May 2, since March and prompted Chinese authorities to shut down live poultry markets and cull birds. Authorities in Shanghai retrieved 11,040 dead pigs from Shanghai’s Huangpu river in March, with thousands more found in neighboring Zhejiang province.
Soybean imports, which more than tripled from 2004 to 59.2 million metric tons in the year to Sept. 30, will probably fall to 58 million tons this year, according to the median of a Bloomberg survey last month of four crushers and three analysts in China. Feed is mostly made with soybean meal and corn.
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