World in brief

Agfinance

ADM profit up

(Reuters) — U.S. agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland Co. reported higher third quarter earnings Nov. 4 on strong corn and soybean processing margins, but revenue fell from a year ago.

Illinois-based ADM reported net earnings of US$747 million, or $1.14 per share, up from $476 million, or 72 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Adjusted earnings were 81 cents per share, up from 47 cents a year ago. Analysts had expected 73 cents, according to Thomson Reuters markets news service.

Revenue was $18.18 billion, down from $21.39 billion a year earlier.

Agfinance

Agrium, ValueAct talks ‘friendly’

WINNIPEG (Reuters) — Agrium Inc. has been in friendly talks with activist shareholder ValueAct Capital, chief executive officer Chuck Magro said Nov. 4, adding that the hedge fund approves of the Canadian fertilizer company’s strategy.

ValueAct on Oct. 24 disclosed it had bought a 5.7 percent stake in the company, 1 1/2 years after Agrium won a proxy battle with another activist trying to breaking it up.

“We’ve had very good two-way dialogue” with ValueAct, Magro said on a conference call with analysts.

“So far, what they’re telling me is the reason they’ve invested in Agrium is they like the strategic plan.”

After an analyst asked if ValueAct was seeking a board seat, Magro said he would not speak about the issues discussed.

San Francisco-based ValueAct did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Agrium’s shares have gained about 15 percent in Toronto since ValueAct disclosed its stake.

Animal Health

Merck says Zilmax seen safe in review

(Reuters) — Merck & Co. Inc. said a review it undertook showed that its controversial feed additive Zilmax was safe when used according to its product label.

Merck suspended sales of Zilmax in the United States and Canada in August last year following concerns about animals showing signs of distress after use of the weight gain product.

A study published in March suggested that the number of U.S. cattle deaths that may be linked to Zilmax are much higher than the figures reported by the drug company to the federal government.

Merck said last week that the review by its advisory board was conducted after concerns that cattle could consume more Zilmax than approved.

It said an updated Zilmax label, with a lower dose, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Merck wants to feed Zilmax to 240,000 U.S. cattle to prove it is safe, but giant meat processors such as Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. don’t want animals fed with the drug.

Merck Animal Health also filed to update Zilmax’s label in Canada, it added.

Fertilizer

PotashCorp settles clean air case

(Reuters) — PotashCorp plans to spend US$50 million on improvements and pay a $1.3 million civil penalty to resolve charges that it violated the U.S. Clean Air Act.

The settlement resolves claims by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency that three potash units violated the law by modifying facilities in ways that released excess sulfur dioxide into nearby communities.

Regulators said the improvements will be made at eight sulfuric acid plants in Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana.

Agfinance

CF Industries’ profit plunges 44 percent

(Reuters) — U.S. fertilizer producer CF Industries has reported a 44 percent drop in third quarter profit, which is steeper than expected.

Chief executive officer Tony Will said the higher cost of natural gas, a key input in nitrogen fertilizer production, contributed to the drop in profit. Higher storage costs also reduced earnings.

Net earnings fell to US$130.9 million from $234.1 million a year earlier.

Net sales dropped 16 percent to $921.4 million, reflecting the sale of CF’s phosphate business to Mosaic Co. CF’s nitrogen sales volume rose six percent, with half of the increase due to a contract with Mosaic.

A drop in grain prices and a delayed U.S. harvest have hampered farmers’ purchases of fertilizer, but CF said it has a positive outlook on the current fourth quarter because farm economics remain attractive and North American natural gas costs have dropped from their 2014 highs.

An unplanned outage at its Woodward, Oklahoma, facility last month will reduce volumes of urea-ammonium nitrate and cut cash operating earnings by $20 million, CF said.

Last month, CF and rival Yara ended talks about a potential merger.

Weather

El Nino recedes

NEW YORK, N.Y. (Reuters) — The U.S. weather forecaster is projecting a 58 percent chance of El Nino developing during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

The Nov.6 forecast reduces the Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for the likelihood of the weather phenomenon in its monthly report.

The centre, which is an agency of the National Weather Service, said the most recent atmosphere and ocean conditions had “reduced confidence that El Nino will fully materialize.”

Last month, the centre said the phenomenon, which is a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, was favoured to begin in the next one or two months.

El Nino, if it does materialize, is favoured to last into the Northern Hemisphere spring, according to the agency.

“If El Nino does emerge, the forecaster consensus favours a weak event,” the centre said in its report.

If it does occur, that usually signals a warmer than usual winter for most of Canada.

Protest

Eat French farmers say

PARIS, France (Reuters) — Farmers dumped mounds of potatoes in central Paris and manure at government buildings in other towns as they urged their countrymen to “Eat French” in a day of national protests Nov. 5.

Fed up with environmental regulations and a downturn in agricultural markets, farmers piled 50 tonnes of fruit and vegetables at the Place de la Republique in Paris, then bagged it for passers-by.

Farmers fear that falling prices linked to Russia’s import embargo and big harvests in the European Union this summer will cut farm incomes in the bloc’s largest agricultural producer after an average drop of 20 percent in 2013.

“Clearly we are expressing our annoyance, and the annoyance of the entire farming world,” said Damien Greffin, head of the FNSEA union in Paris region.

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