Corn Products earnings per share leap 109% in quarter

by Jeff Gelski
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WESTCHESTER, ILL. — Corn Products International, Inc. reported record quarterly earnings per share of 67c per share for the first quarter ended March 31, which marked a 109% increase from 32c per share in the previous year’s first quarter. Net income improved 114% to $50 million from $23 million.

First-quarter net sales increased 24% to $762 million, a record quarterly level, from $615 million predominantly because of favorable price/product mix. The acquisitions of SPI Polyols, Getec and DEMSA contributed about $18 million.

The price per share for Corn Products International opened at $39, a 52-week high, on the New York Stock Exchange on April 24, the day first-quarter results were announced. The previous 52-week high was $37.49.

Westchester-based Corn Products International now anticipates e.p.s. in 2007 of $2.10 to $2.30 compared with $1.63 in 2006, said Sam Scott, chairman, president and chief executive officer. Corn Products previously estimated 2007 e.p.s. at $1.84 to $2.01.

"While we don’t see the first quarter as a sustainable level, we still anticipate solid e.p.s. growth for the balance of the year," Mr. Scott said. "Our higher outlook stems from the very strong first-quarter performance by our North American region, which we had already said would be the major profit driver in 2007.

"We continue to expect improved results in South America and Asia/Africa."

In the first quarter, operating margins (30c per share), change in an annual effective tax rate (5c), volumes (3c) and foreign currency translation (1c) improved earnings. Higher financing costs lowered earnings by 2c per share. Increased shares outstanding and a lower minority interest each lowered earnings by 1c per share.

In North America, net sales increased 24% to $468 million because of improved price/product mix. Operating income jumped 150% to $81 million.

In South America, net sales increased 33% to $200 million and operating income rose 27% to $25 million. In Asia/Africa, net sales grew 7% to $94 million and operating income increased 10% to $414 million.

Corn Products has passed through higher corn costs more rapidly than expected in international markets, Mr. Scott said.

"We believe our business models in North America and internationally continue to work well in today’s environment of higher, and likely more volatile, corn prices," Mr. Scott said. "As always, we have risks related to co-product values, the corn basis and any possible sharp move, up or down, in corn prices during the balance of the year."

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