CHICAGO — The management team at Archer Daniels Midland Co. maneuvered its way through difficult external conditions in 2019, but a strong fourth quarter has the company upbeat about opportunities in 2020 and beyond.

Net earnings attributable to ADM in the year ended Dec. 31, 2019, totaled $1,379 million, equal to $2.44 per share on the common stock, down 24% from $1,810 million, or $3.19 per share, in fiscal 2018. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, earnings increased to $504 million, or 90c per share, up 60% from $315 million, or 55c per share, in the same period a year ago. Adjusted operating profit in the fourth quarter increased to $1,028 million from $860 million.

“I’m proud to look back on a year in which we delivered significant advancements in each of our strategic pillars,” Juan Luciano, president and chief executive officer, said during a Jan. 30 conference call with analysts. “In our optimize pillar, we advanced key business improvements and are seeing the results of our work at the Decatur (Ill.) corn complex and in our Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts business. We reshaped our North American wheat milling footprint, closing all less efficient mills and opening our brand-new, state-of-the-art facility in Mendota (Ill.). We completed the significant global organization redesign, including offering early retirement for certain North American colleagues and reducing management layers that is helping us enhance productivity and efficiency. And just in the fourth quarter, we entered into an agreement to sell our palm plantation operations in Brazil and sold our investment in CIP, advancing our ongoing efforts to ensure our asset portfolio maximizes returns and aligns with our core competencies.”

Revenues for the year increased to $64,656 million from $64,341 million. Revenues during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 increased 2% to $16,329 million from $15,947 million.

Operating profit in the Ag Services and Oilseeds segment fell 4% in fiscal 2019 to $1,935 million, while profit in the fourth quarter rose 20% to $739 million. Within the segment, ag services operating profit fell 24% year-over-year to $502 million, while crushing profit eased 11% to $580 million and refined products and other increased 58% to $586 million.

Year-over-year operating profit in the Carbohydrate Solutions segment fell 32% in fiscal 2019 to $644 million, while fourth-quarter profit eased 12% to $174 million. Starches and sweeteners profit fell 10% during the full year but increased 7% in the fourth quarter.

“Wheat milling results were up around globally,” said Ray G. Young, executive vice-president and chief financial officer. “Bioproducts results were down compared to last year’s fourth quarter due to continued unfavorable ethanol conditions and some risk management hedging losses.”

Mr. Young said ADM will begin reporting the Carbohydrates Solutions business in two subsegments: Starches and Sweeteners, and Vantage Corn Processors, or VCP. VCP is a newly created dry mill ethanol subsidiary that also will market ethanol produced at ADM’s wet mills, Mr. Young said. Meanwhile, the Starches and Sweeteners subsegment will include the results of all of ADM’s wet mill operations, including ethanol production, he added.

In the Nutrition segment operating profit increased to $418 million in fiscal 2019, up from $339 million in fiscal 2018. Fourth-quarter profit, meanwhile, increased to $102 million from $62 million in the same period a year ago. Within the segment, WFSI profit improved to $376 million from $318 million in the full year and increased to $83 million from $59 million in the fourth quarter.

Describing 2019 as an impressive year of growth for ADM’s Nutrition segment, Mr. Young said the company expects the growth story to continue in 2020.

“For the first quarter, we anticipate overall Nutrition segment results will be substantially higher than the first quarter of 2019 with growth in operating profit at around 20%,” he said. “WFSI should be up on the continued customer demand for our on-trend ingredients and our unparalleled expertise and service. Animal Nutrition will continue to benefit from our Neovia acquisition and the execution of the synergies we’ve identified, though we expect the global lysine pricing environment to remain challenged in the quarter. In addition, year-over-year comparisons will benefit from last year’s first quarter Neovia purchase price adjustment on inventory costs, which negatively impacted results one time.”