Agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland Co. said Tuesday its fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 33 percent mostly due to an accounting gain. Without the gain, its adjusted profit fell from a year earlier on weak margins in its oilseeds business and high corn costs.
Archer Daniels Midland's profits were hurt by a wildly volatile few months in global food markets. The price of corn, for example, jumped 26 percent between early July and late August to hit $7.75 a bushel. Then prices crashed 9 percent to close the quarter near where they started, at around $6.32 a bushel.
Such wild price swings make it difficult for Archer Daniels Midland to profit because the company is constantly buying and selling grain. It does everything from ship grain to run ethanol plants to make food ingredients.
CEO Patricia Woertz said profit margins should improve in the coming months. But handling the volatility would be key to Archer Daniels Midland's performance.
"We remain focused, regardless of the (profit) margin environment, frankly, on risk. On good risk management," Woertz told analysts during a conference call Tuesday morning.
Decatur, Ill.-based Archer Daniels Midland builds its fiscal year around the farming calendar. During the first quarter, company reported net income of $460 million, or 68 cents per share, compared with $345 million, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier.
Adjusted for the accounting issue and other items, ADM earned 58 cents per share, down from 67 cents a year earlier.
The company recorded a so-called "LIFO" gain of 11 cents per share in the most recent quarter, and a penny per share in debt exchange costs. LIFO, or last-in, first-out, assumes that a company sells its newest products first. If a product is sold for more than it was bought for, the difference is taken as a gain.
Net revenue rose to $21.9 billion from $16.8 billion.
Analysts expected adjusted earnings of 67 cents per share on lower revenue of $19.12 billion.
Operating profit in the company's oilseeds business fell to $221 million from $308 million a year earlier. Its corn processing operating profit fell to $179 million from $341 million in last year's fiscal first quarter. ADM's unit that provides agricultural services posted an improved operating profit of $244 million, up from $132 million a year ago.
ADM says it offset some cost pressures through hedging. It's seeing a smaller U.S. harvest than last year, but says global demand for crops remains solid.
Shares of the company fell $1.20, or 4.2 percent, to close at $27.74 Tuesday as the broader markets declined.