Archer Daniels fourth-quarter profit misses estimates amid trade war woes

February 5, 2019

By P.J. Huffstutter and Arundhati Sarkar

(Reuters) – U.S. grains trader Archer Daniels Midland Co on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell short of estimates as three of its four key business groups reported results below the same period a year earlier.

Adjusted operating profit in ADM’s origination business, which includes grain trading, fell nearly 30 percent to $183 million in the quarter, despite higher volumes of North American corn and soybean exports to markets outside of China.

Profits also were hurt by “significant insurance settlements” tied to sorghum shipments in early 2018.

Last April, Reuters reported that several ships carrying cargoes of sorghum, a niche animal feed, from the United States to China changed course after Beijing slapped hefty anti-dumping deposits on U.S. imports of the grain.

An anti-dumping probe by Beijing, which halted trade between the world’s biggest buyer and seller of the grain early last year, was among the first trade fights between the United States and China, which are still embroiled in a trade war.

“Current-quarter results were driven by an intra-company insurance settlement relating to sorghum shipments in early 2018, as well as other underwriting losses,” ADM said in its earnings report.

The company’s oilseeds unit reported better-than-expected results, but its carbohydrate solutions and nutrition group were pressured by lower sales and margins in Europe and the Middle East, and lower margins in North America due to lower production rates.

ADM has four different units that include origination, carbohydrate solutions, nutrition and oilseeds. Chicago-based ADM has been trying to invest in higher-margin businesses to boost earnings in a volatile commodity market.

Net earnings attributable to ADM fell to $315 million, or 55 cents per share, from $788 million, or $1.39 per share, a year earlier, when the company recorded $249 million in tax gains.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 88 cents per share, while analysts, on average, estimated 92 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue fell to $15.95 billion from $16.07 billion. The consensus analyst estimate was $16.81 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Its shares dropped 2.1 percent to $43.55 in light premarket trading.

(Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago and Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Jeffrey Benkoe)