ADM Q1 shows year-over-year improvement

Company expected gains to continue despite ample grain supplies.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) this week reported improved year-over-year first-quarter results across all segments for the period ending March 31, 2017.

Highlights included adjusted earnings per share of 60 cents, up from 42 cents last year. Net earnings also improved year over year to $339 million, up from $230 million. Total revenue was $14.99 billion, up from $14.38 billion during the same period in 2016.

The company said it also returned $431 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.

“Our year-over-year results improved as a company and in all four of our business segments during the first quarter, and we continue to be on course for a stronger 2017,” ADM chairman and chief executive Juan Luciano said. “Ag Services was up for the quarter, with higher results in U.S. grain and transportation operations. The Corn business delivered a good quarter, with improved performances across the portfolio. Oilseeds earnings were up, including solid results in global softseeds and from our equity investment in Wilmar. WFSI results were higher, led by WILD Flavors."

Luciano said ADM continues to execute the long-term strategic plan the company launched in 2012.

“We have strengthened our core, improving our cost positions and implementing measures to improve results where necessary," he said. "Our operational excellence initiatives have delivered significant savings and efficiencies, and we continue to grow strategically by expanding into new geographies and increasing our capabilities in food, beverage and feed. Those actions contributed to the improved results we saw in the first quarter despite muted margin environments in some businesses. The continued momentum in the execution of our plan gives us confidence that we will deliver sustainable value creation.”

Luciano explained that the industry has faced some “significant market headwinds” over the last two years, but he’s proud that the company faced the headwinds and had the discipline to continue to execute its plan.

“We worked to deliver cost and process efficiencies, we invested to grow through acquisitions and plant expansions and we continued to deliver dividends and share repurchases. We worked the levers under our control, putting us further along the path to creating long-term value for our shareholders,” he said.

Results of operations

The Ag Services segment delivered improved results over the year-ago quarter, according to ADM.

“In merchandising and handling, North America grain showed better results, with improving grain carries and good execution volumes amid strong global demand for U.S. commodities,” ADM reported. International merchandising, on the other hand, was down from the year-ago quarter due to lack of merchandising opportunities and some unfavorable market-to-market effects.

The company said its transportation segment had a significantly improved quarter, led by its North American barge and stevedoring operations, which capitalized on high volumes versus the prior-year quarter.

Milling and other had a solid quarter, but with lower volumes and margins, the company said.

Corn Processing segment results, however, were significantly better than the year-ago quarter. Sweeteners and starches delivered a strong performance on improved domestic demand and higher volumes and margins from the European business. ADM said Bioproducts was up over the previous year, with very strong exports and improved margins driving solid results in ethanol. Animal nutrition was also up, with improved margins in lysine offset partially by overall lower sales volumes caused by a mild winter, the company said.

Oilseeds Processing results were also up versus the first quarter of 2016. Crushing and origination was comparable to the year-ago period. Softseeds results were significantly higher than the previous year as the company took advantage of its softseed processing footprint and flex capacity to capitalize on margin opportunities in both North America and Europe.

A competitive global protein meal market continued to pressure soybean crush margins. South America crush and origination were down because the pace of farmer selling has not kept pace with export demand.

Refining, packaging, biodiesel and other results declined. Solid European Union food oil results were offset by timing effects; North American biodiesel volumes and margins were down, while South American packaged oils and biodiesel improved.

ADM said results in Asia improved significantly over the prior-year quarter due to its increased ownership stake in and strong results from Wilmar.

WFSI was up over the prior-year quarter. WILD Flavors improved on its solid first quarter in 2016: The Europe/Middle East/Africa/India WILD Flavors business had a very strong March, led by good sales volumes in Africa and the Middle East. The WILD Flavors business in Asia also had a good quarter, thanks to strong sales in China. The specialty ingredients sub-segment was slightly down for the quarter, as solid protein results in North America were offset by weaker results in some specialty ingredients, including fibers.

Outlook

ADM expects results to continue to improve but added that the mix of earnings may be slightly different across business segments, with Ag Services potentially slightly weaker for the year and Corn and Oilseeds perhaps slightly stronger.

“Taken together, as we continue to execute our plan, we remain confident that the actions we are taking will yield a solid year-over-year increase in profitability and returns for 2017,” Luciano said. “With ample stocks around the world, there is a very subdued environment for us to make profitable international trades, if you will, in the international merchandising business.”

He said the company has been “working very hard to reduce our fixed cost” by closing and consolidating offices as well as making personnel changes.

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