Cargill reported net earnings of $571 million in the fiscal 2014 first quarter, down 41 percent from last year’s record quarter of $975 million. First-quarter revenues of $33.8 billion matched the year-ago period.
“Cargill did an excellent job managing the remaining effects of last year’s severe drought and smaller crops,” said Greg Page, Cargill’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. “Our agricultural supply chain and food ingredient businesses were focused on helping customers and the company to successfully manage their raw material purchases and inventories during the market uncertainty that precedes the transition to new crops in the northern hemisphere.”
Page noted that Cargill’s performance was balanced, with nearly three-fourths of its business units recording profits.
Earnings rose slightly in the animal nutrition and protein segment in the first quarter. Global animal nutrition results exceeded last year’s profits, due in part to margin improvements. U.S. beef processing operations benefited from increased slaughter plant efficiencies.
Although results were down from last year, the origination and processing segment was the largest contributor to Cargill’s first-quarter results. Supported by strong global analytics, sourcing, logistics and risk management, the segment successfully navigated the uncertainty surrounding crop production in the northern hemisphere, including weather gyrations in North America. The segment’s South American-based supply chains performed well, utilizing the region’s big crops to serve strong export demand. Conversely, in North American farm services, the remaining impact of last year’s severe drought in the U.S. Midwest reduced grain handling opportunities in the first quarter.
Food ingredients and applications earnings decreased moderately from last year’s record first quarter. Segment businesses closely managed the purchase and delivery of raw materials to processing facilities, which decreased the supply chain risks presented by choppy markets and provided for assured supplies to customers. The segment was the second largest contributor to company earnings.
Results in industrial and financial services were down significantly from last year’s strong first quarter. The segment’s energy businesses posted a weak performance due to the combined effects of mild weather, soft demand and low market volatility. Backed by strong analytics, results in steel and iron ore markets were solid, though somewhat below last year’s first quarter. Asset management results softened, largely due to rising economic pressures in emerging markets.