Cargill profit quadruples, led by grain sector

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U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. said Jan. 9 quarterly earnings quadrupled, led by profits from trading operations amid the effects of last summer’s U.S. drought, the worst in more than 50 years.

Minneapolis-based Cargill, one of the world’s largest privately held businesses and a leader in world commodity markets, said net earnings soared to $409 million for the quarter ended Nov. 30 from $100 million a year earlier.

Revenue rose six per cent to $35.2 billion.

Strong global trading and risk management results and improved oilseed processing margins in several regions boosted earnings, the company said in a statement.

It was Cargill’s second straight quarter of strong earnings after weak results in 2012 prompted Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the company’s outlook to negative.

Smaller rivals like Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge faced similar pressures but also emerged from a period of poor earnings during 2012 amid volatile commodity markets.

Cargill, a leading food processor, grain and meat exporter, and ethanol producer and a trader in dozens of countries around the world, said it was pulling back from acquisitions to focus on capital investments.

“We have a record $2.4 billion of large projects under construction in 13 countries,” Cargill CEO Greg Page said in a statement. “As these facilities come online, they strengthen Cargill’s supply chain, risk management and innovation capabilities.”

Earnings rose in four of five Cargill’s business segments, with its grain processing and origination division posting the strongest results.

Food ingredients and applications was the only segment down from 2012, reflecting excess capacity in the North American ethanol market. But Cargill’s animal protein business posted a profit, versus a loss last year.

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