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Strong beef demand lifts Cargill profit for quarter

(Dave Bedard photo)

Chicago | Reuters — Global commodities trader Cargill reported a 14 per cent rise in quarterly profit on Wednesday as strong beef demand and ample supplies of cattle lifted earnings for its animal nutrition and protein segment for a fifth straight quarter.

The gains in protein offset a weaker year-on-year result for Cargill’s origination and processing unit as huge global grain stocks weighed down commodity prices and minimized market volatility, limiting trading opportunities.

Cargill and rivals — including Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Louis Dreyfus, known as the ABCD quartet of global grain trading giants — have been trying to diversify and lift earnings amid a global grains glut that has squeezed margins and dragged down profits.

Cargill’s diversification push has centered around its proteins business, with expansions in feed production and aquaculture and divestitures of its U.S. pork business and several cattle feedlots.

The privately held company said net income rose to $973 million in its first quarter ended Aug. 31, from $852 million a year earlier (all figures US$).

Excluding one-time items, Cargill reported quarterly net income of $888 million, up from $827 million a year earlier.

Revenue came in at $27.3 billion, slightly up from the $27.1 billion it posted last year.

The company’s animal nutrition and protein segment was the largest contributor to profit in the quarter, as low beef prices fueled demand while ample beef cattle supplies boosted margins. Global poultry earnings were down slightly from the year-earlier quarter.

Cargill’s food ingredients and applications unit was the second-largest earnings contributor in the quarter, led by gains in cocoa and chocolate products and sweeteners and starches, the company said. It was the fifth straight quarter of higher year-on-year results for the segment.

Origination and processing results fell below a year ago despite good soy processing results in Brazil and China and strong exports from Brazil. Slow farmer grain sales in South America created headwinds, the company said.

Industrial and financial services results were also lower than a year ago.

— Karl Plume reports on agriculture and agribusiness for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Taenaz Shakir in Bangalore.

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