Cargill earnings rise on big U.S. harvest

Second quarter results Profits up 35 percent

CHICAGO (Reuters) — Cargill reported a 36 percent increase in quarterly profits, supported by a bigger U.S. harvest last year that led to increased exports and improved meat profit margins.


The company had net earnings of $556 million for the second quarter ended Nov. 30, up from $409 million a year ago.


Revenues totalled $32.9 billion, down seven percent from a year ago.


“Earnings improved in three of our four segments,” said new Cargill chief executive officer David MacLennan, who took over to lead the multinational after Greg Page stepped down on Dec. 1.


The bigger harvest this crop year boosted handling, export prospects and grain processing volumes and also improved profits in its meat and ethanol businesses.


“The impact on supply and de-mand caused prices for agricultural commodities to come down from last year’s highs, providing relief to Cargill’s animal nutrition and protein segment,” the company said in a statement. 


“Larger export volumes and in-creased operating efficiencies also contributed to stronger results, especially in beef processing.”


Last fiscal year the small U.S. cattle herd and high cattle prices hurt Cargill’s meat business.


Cargill, one of the world’s largest privately held corporations, had revenue of $136.7 billion for fiscal 2013, which would have placed it No. 10 on the Fortune 500 list of publicly held companies.


While Cargill’s quarterly results rose in three of its four business segments, its animal protein group showed the most improvement and its food ingredients and applications sector was the largest contributor to the quarter.


A pick up in demand for specific products, like cocoa powder and corn-based ethanol, added to earnings, the company said.


Cargill’s agricultural services division, which includes its grain sourcing, handling and processing, was the only sector with earnings below a year ago despite an improvement from North American operations.


“In certain markets, Argentina in particular, there has been a build up across the industry in oilseed crush capacity. So that was a negative affect on crush volumes,” said Cargill spokesperson Lisa Clemens.