Archer Daniels Midland's net income rose 37 percent, the company said Tuesday, thanks to a healthy third quarter for oilseed and corn processing and agricultural services.
The company was forced to navigate volatile commodity prices during the quarter, as well as unstable political climates from the Middle East to Africa.
ADM posted earnings of $578 million, or 86 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31. That's up from $421 million, or 65 cents per share, a year earlier. The performance met analysts' expectations.
Revenue climbed 33 percent to $20.08 billion, easily topping Wall Street expectations for $16.88 billion.
The health of Archer Daniels Midland Co. provides a snapshot for agribusiness as a whole, because it operates in virtually every aspect of the business as both a buyer and seller of commodities.
The company reported higher operating profit across its segments. Its corn processing division includes its network of ethanol plants, while its agricultural services unit includes grain trading.
Archer Daniels does not break out its ethanol results, but said its profit climbed $99 million to $158 million for its bioproducts division, which includes ethanol and food additives like lysine.
Operating profit in the agricultural services segment rose $6 million to $171 million amid volatile commodity markets, regional instability in the Middle East and North Africa and Japan's earthquake and tsunami.
David Driscoll of Citi Investment Research said in a client note that he was expecting a strong quarter from the division because of the low level of global grain supplies. He predicted a much higher agricultural services profit of $400 million.
"This is the biggest surprise of the quarter and it will likely generate the most questions on its forward implications," he wrote.
Shares of Archer Daniels Midland dropped $1.83, or 5 percent, to $35.17 in morning trading. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $24.22 to $38.02.
Operating profit for the sweeteners and starches unit was basically flat at $46 million as increased average selling prices and volumes were mostly offset by higher net corn costs. The company said sweetener export demand remained strong, while U.S. demand for industrial starches improved.
Chairman and CEO Patricia Woertz said that the Decatur, Ill., company is monitoring the planting and growing season in North America and Europe, but that global demand for crops and agricultural products remains relatively strong.