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Cargill Profit Jumps 68% on Agriculture Volatility

Cargill Inc., the grain distributor that’s the largest closely held company in the U.S., said first-quarter profit rose 68 percent as volatility increased across agricultural commodity markets.

Net income climbed to $883 million in the three months ended Aug. 31 from $525 million a year earlier, the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based company said today in a statement. Excluding earnings from its majority stake in crop-nutrient producer Mosaic Co., profit gained 51 percent to $693 million. Sales climbed 6 percent to $27.8 billion.

Cargill said its unit that buys, processes and distributes agricultural commodities saw results rise “significantly” on renewed market volatility. Wheat futures gained 50 percent in Chicago trading during the quarter, corn rose 22 percent and soybeans gained 8 percent.

“We had gone for a year with markets moving relatively range-bound,” Lisa Clemens, a Cargill spokeswoman, said in an interview today. “Things began to change in June and July. Volatility provides both risk and opportunity.”

Earnings from Cargill’s food ingredients and applications unit were up “moderately,” the company said. Profit declined at the agriculture services unit because of “seasonality.”

“The quarter that precedes the harvest is the slower among the four,” Clemens said.

Earnings from Cargill’s risk-management and finance unit were lower because of energy markets, which in contrast to agricultural commodities “are moving by a smaller amount, up and down in a smaller range,” Clemens said.

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