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Cargill’s net profit rises 5 percent, but adjusted earnings are flat

September 27, 2018

Cargill Inc.’s net profit rose 5 percent during the summer months but its adjusted earnings were flat as only one of its four business units reported a gain.

The Minnetonka-based agricultural processing and products company said it earned $1.02 billion in June-through-August period, the first quarter of its fiscal year. That’s up from $973 million a year ago.

Revenue was up 5 percent to $28.7 billion.

The privately-held company also discloses adjusted results that executives believe more clearly show the underlying financial performance of ongoing operations. By that measure, Cargill said it earned $883 million in the quarter, a slight reduction from $888 million a year ago.

In calculating those figures, Cargill excludes earnings and losses attributable to its asset management business and other accounting events, such as timing differences related to inventory, derivatives and hedging.

The only one of Cargill’s business units to show a gain this summer was Origination Processing, which includes the trading of grains and other commodities. The company said that unit’s earnings rose “appreciably” against a weak year-ago period. Weather and “rising economic uncertainty” brought its employees’ trading, analytical and logistical skills “to the fore,” Cargill said in the results announcement.

As the world’s largest agricultural food processor and trader, Cargill is one of the few companies to vocally protest the Trump administration’s moves to curtail free trade policies. But in the results statement, it made no direct mention of the effect that the U.S. tariffs on countries’ products, which have been followed by counter-tariffs on U.S. agriculture products by other countries, on its business.

The adjusted profit at Cargill’s largest business, animal nutrition and protein, was slightly below the year-ago level. Cargill said demand for beef and value-added egg products remained strong, but its turkey business remained under pressure as supply outweighed demand. Animal nutrition products saw a decline in profit because of higher costs, lower sales volumes and price pressures.

Cargill’s food ingredients business produces “slightly lower” adjusted profit. Cargill said cocoa, chocolate, edible oils and malt products showed profit gains. Starches, sweeteners and texturizers were hurt by lower ethanol prices, trading results in North America and currency devaluations in emerging markets. Its profits in salt also fell due to higher production costs and freight rates.

The company’s industrial and financial services business experienced a decline in operating profit due to lower returns in asset management activities, Cargill said. It added the decline was partly offset by “good performance in trade finance and commodity risk management.”

Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241

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