Bunge lifts outlook as quarterly profit nearly doubles

(Dave Bedard photo)

Reuters — Agricultural commodities trader Bunge Ltd. raised its 2020 outlook after reporting a 91 per cent jump in adjusted third-quarter profit on Wednesday, as strong soy processing margins and robust demand for soy products boosted its core agribusiness segment.

Bunge shares rose almost seven per cent to their highest level in more than a year.

The company raised full-year profit guidance for a second straight quarter, projecting 2020 earnings of $6.25 to $6.75 per share (all figures US$). The company cited better-than-anticipated agribusiness results and a more favourable outlook for its edible oils unit despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“In our view, the team’s execution was nearly flawless this quarter,” CEO Greg Heckman said, adding that guidance was lifted “based on Q3 results and improving market trends.”

Grain traders such as Bunge and rivals Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, known as the ABCDs of grain, have faced headwinds from the pandemic as shuttered restaurants and reduced travel disrupted demand for food and fuel. Infection rates are rising again globally, triggering fresh lockdowns and other restrictions.

But they have weathered the crisis better than other industries, and Bunge — whose Canadian businesses include oilseed crushing and processing and a joint stake in Prairie grain handler G3 — said its facilities continued to operate at or near normal levels.

Bunge agribusiness earnings more than doubled to $467 million on robust margins in South America, Europe and Asia and active grain sales by South American farmers. Edible oils performed better than expected, although results were down year-on-year.

Net attributable income to Bunge was $262 million, or $1.84 per share, for the third-quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $1.49 billion, or $10.57 per share, a year earlier when Bunge took charges totaling about $1.7 billion.

On an adjusted basis, Bunge posted a profit of $2.47 per share, up from $1.28 per share a year earlier.

Net sales fell 1.6 per cent to $10.16 billion, but topped analysts’ estimates of $9.92 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES.

— Reporting for Reuters by Karl Plume in Chicago and Arunima Kumar in Bangalore.

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