Cargill Net Income Jumps 77% After Sale of Pork Business

  • Sales drop 10% after rout in commodity prices, `weaker demand'
  • CEO sees `significant' progress in reshaping portfolio

Cargill Inc., one of the world’s biggest agriculture companies, posted a 77 percent gain in net income in the fiscal second quarter after the $1.45 billion sale of its U.S. pork business.

Earnings in the three months ended Nov. 30 were $1.39 billion, compared with net income of $784 million a year earlier, the Minneapolis-based company said Thursday in a statement. Sales declined 10 percent to $27.3 billion from $30.3 billion amid slumping commodity prices. The company also reported a gain from the asset sale and a charge related to accounting in Venezuela.

In the past few months, 150-year-old Cargill shed several businesses and bought some assets. The company completed the sale of its U.S. pork business to Brazil’s JBS SA and bought a salmon-feed producer and the chocolate business from Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. Cargill Chief Executive Officer David MacLennan cited “significant” progress in reshaping the company’s portfolio.

“Within the segments, we saw performance gains in key global businesses, including animal nutrition, grain and oilseed processing, most of our poultry operations and several food-ingredients categories,” MacLennan said in the statement.

Poultry Sales

“Areas of particular strength” included aquaculture nutrition in Latin America and poultry in Central America, Europe and Thailand, Cargill, the largest closely held U.S. company, said in the statement. The U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in November boosted fresh whole turkey sales volume.

Operating profit adjusted for items including the pork-unit sale fell 13 percent to $574 million from a year earlier. “Difficult economic conditions” in North American cattle feeding and a decrease in Australia’s animal supplies curbed beef profit, the company said.

Profit from food ingredients and applications fell, and some staple foods were hurt by “weakening currencies and recessionary conditions” in emerging economies, the company said.

Profit from industrial and financial services dropped “significantly,” partly because of the liquidation of hedge funds at an asset-management subsidiary, Cargill said. Cargill announced the breakup and spinoff of investment arm Black River Asset Management.

Warm Winter

The warm start to winter in North America hurt demand for road salt, deicing and natural gas, the company said.

Iron-ore and steel trading in China posted gains, spokeswoman Lisa Clemens said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Profit for the origination and processing segment was “down moderately” as Canada’s grain business eased to normal levels after two large crops, while cotton, soft-seed crush and sugar weakened, the company said. Soybean-crush results improved in most areas.

In the previous quarter, Cargill posted a 20 percent gain in profit, partly because its traders made smart calls in the corn and soybean markets during the raw-material slump. In the latest quarter, the company cited “good risk management amid declining prices in well-supplied markets for agricultural commodities.”

In December, Cargill agreed to sell its crop-insurance unit to Silveus Insurance Group because it wasn’t central to the grain business. 

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