ADM concentrating on three 'Cs'

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — Cost, cash and capital — or the “three Cs” as they are commonly called — are in the crosshairs of major initiatives at Archer Daniels Midland Co., executives told participants at the Morgan Stanley Global Chemicals and Agriculture Conference held Nov. 13 in Boston.

Patricia Woertz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of ADM, said the Decatur, Ill.-based company achieved its goal of $150 million in cost savings last year, most of which was SG&A related. The company now has a new target: another $200 million in annual run rate savings by the end of 2014.

“These areas are more in the operational side, so it’s benchmarking and standardization of practices across many plants,” Ms. Woertz said. “It’s energy cost savings. It’s procurement cost savings. About a half of that $200 million we already have the initiatives under way and being executed to gain that $200 million in savings. So half of it would be $100 million. It’s not quite on the books, but the initiatives are under way. So we think we’re a little ahead of schedule in even that additional $200 million.”

Ms. Woertz said ADM is addressing the issue of cash through an initiative referred to as “the billion dollar challenge.” As part of the program, ADM is asking its employees to look for ways to unlock the cash in the balance sheet that potentially was hidden or was not being put to use in the best manner.

“We were able to unlock not only the first billion, but a little over $2 billion by earlier this year,” she said.

Finally, ADM has reduced its capital spending and improved its processes for capital allocation, Ms. Woertz said.

“In the reduction in spending, we were running at about $2 billion a year of CapEx before acquisitions, and we reduced that to about $1 billion a year here in 2013,” she explained. “When we look forward to 2014, while we’re still putting our business plan together and finalizing some of that with respect to capital structure, etc., we expect 2014 to be under $1.5 billion. And included in that is probably $100 million to $200 million on an E.R.P. project, something we call ‘1ADM.’ So we’re still keeping a bit of a lid on capital.”

As for the process for improving capital, ADM over the past couple of years has worked on standardizing its project evaluation process to make sure every project is evaluated using the same criteria, said Ray Young, senior vice-president and chief financial officer.

“We’ve got standardized metrics right now in terms of looking at every project, whether it be R.O.I.C., I.R.R., accretion, or m.p.v.s.,” Mr. Young said. “We go through a standard process evaluation. We go through a capital allocation process whereby we’re targeting projects into certain areas, certain geographies, so that we’re actually purposeful in terms of capital spending. And I think that’s done a lot in terms of helping us really direct where we’re going to grow this company into the future.”
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