Q1 profits more than double at Bunge
over Q1 2007, as it reaps the benefits of rising commodity prices
coupled with global demand that is not likely to ebb anytime soon.
Headquartered in White Plains, New York, the agribusiness reported net sales of $12.5bn for the quarter ended March 31, up from $7.3bn in the same quarter in 2007. Income from operations (before income tax) increased by a phenomenal 1,452 percent over the same period - growing from $27mn to $419mn. While many businesses are feeling the crunch from a rise in commodity prices, others - such as Bunge - are seeing better margins. Grain stores have been hitting historical lows as supply decreases due to diverted uses for crops, and climatic effects including drought. In its earnings report, Bunge highlighted its risk management approach as helping it to achieve favorable results this past quarter. That Bunge supplies to markets as diverse as food, fertilizer and biofuels can certainly not hinder it in cushioning any economic blows. "In this environment, effective risk management and a global business that mitigates exposure to any one region, while providing the ability to navigate market dislocations, are essential," said Bunge chairman and CEO, Alberto Weisser. "So too is efficient management of working capital." The agribusiness supplies fertilizer to farmers in South America, as well as oilseeds, grains and other agricultural commodities worldwide. It also produces ingredients for commercial customers and supplies raw materials to the biofuels industry. Bunge reported a strong quarter in 2008 compared to a loss in the same period of 2007. It reported higher oilseed crushing margins in all of its operations worldwide. The company sold greater volumes of fertilizer due to equally high product sales for soybean planting, which it said are historically purchased in the second half of the year. At the same time, soybean farmers stepped up their rate of purchasing in light of higher asking prices for their products and concern that crop input costs would increase. Results also improved for Bunge's edible oil products in Europe, as price increases helped to offset higher raw material costs. The company noted in addition that its Brazilian edible oil division performed particularly well. The firm announced weaker results for its milling products, owing to increased competition and higher operating costs in wheat milling. Higher average borrowings and higher interest rates tempered earnings, while on the other side of the balance foreign exchange gains were made on the US dollar-denominated liability positions of the company's Brazilian subsidiaries. Bunge reported that these gains in large part offset foreign exchange losses on inventories included in gross profit. The company used more of its cash flow for operations in Q1 2008 than in Q1 2007 - $353mn compared to $182mn - owing to higher commodity prices. Bunge is optimistic the remainder of the 2008 financial year will bring equally strong results and the company is preparing accordingly. "Considering the strong start to the year, and that we should continue to benefit from the good fundamentals in our industry, we are increasing our 2008 full-year net income guidance by $150mn to $980mn to $1.02bn, or $7.10 to $7.40 per share," said Jacqualyn Fouse, Bunge's chief financial officer.