ST. LOUIS — First-quarter earnings at Bunge Ltd. fell short of last year’s record results, dragged down in part by sluggish oilseed processing results in Argentina, Asia and Europe, which more than offset strong crush margins in North America and Brazil.
Bunge net income in the first quarter ended March 31 was $632 million, equal to $4.15 per share on the common stock, down 8.2% from $688 million, or $4.48 per share, in the first quarter of fiscal 2022. Sales totaled $15.33 billion, down 3.5% from $15.88 billion a year ago.
On an adjusted basis, earnings per share were $3.26 in the first quarter of fiscal 2023, down from $4.26 in the same period a year ago. Bunge reaffirmed its full-year adjusted EPS of at least $11, reflecting “first-quarter results and the current margin environment and forward curves.”
Following the release of the financials, shares of Bunge dipped as low as $90.04, down 1.3% from the previous day’s close of $91.15 and down 5.5% from the open on May 3.
“While the volatility in the quarter was less than we experienced last year, we’re still in a highly dynamic operating environment,” Gregory A. Heckman, chief executive officer, said during a May 3 conference call with analysts.
“Our focus is on continuing to invest in strengthening our business so that we can provide customers from farmers to end consumers with solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing them not only today, but as we look ahead,” Mr. Heckman said. “The work we have done to improve and integrate our operational, commercial and risk management approach has enabled us to effectively manage through supply disruptions, severe weather impacts the lingering effects of the pandemic and the volatility in financial markets.”
He added that while many of the factors that drove extreme volatility during the first quarter of fiscal 2022 are still in place, markets have stabilized somewhat. As a result, Bunge’s first-quarter numbers “reflect performance that was among the best in first quarters in Bunge’s history, although down from prior year’s record results,” he said.
During the first quarter of fiscal 2023, segment EBIT within Agribusiness totaled $705 million, up narrowly from $699 million in the same period a year ago. Adjusted segment EBIT, though, was $512 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2023, down more than 18% from $627 million in the same period a year ago. Sales decreased 3.4% to $10.85 billion from $11.23 billion, while volumes fell to 18.39 million tonnes from 20.07 million tonnes a year ago.
“Agribusiness started the year off well,” said John W. Neppl, executive vice president and chief financial officer. “However, results were down from last year’s particularly strong performance. In Processing, lower results in the quarter were primarily driven by soy crush. Improved performances in North America and Brazil, which benefited from strong protein and oil demand and reduced Argentine exports, were more than offset by lower results in Argentina, Europe and Asia. In Merchandising, results were lower in the quarter as margins declined from last year’s levels, which were impacted by market disruptions due to tight supplies and the war in Ukraine.”
In the Refined and Specialty Oils segment, EBIT was $233 million, up 35% from $173 million a year ago. Adjusted segment EBIT, meanwhile, was $234 million, up from $180 million a year ago. Sales were $3.89 billion, down 2.3% from $3.98 billion, while volumes were 2.15 million tonnes, down from 2.3 million tonnes.
Mr. Neppl said all regions performed well, with notable year-over-year improvements in North America and South America, both of which benefited from strong food and renewable fuel demand.
Milling segment EBIT totaled $9 million, down sharply from $50 million a year ago. Adjusted segment EBIT was $10 million, down from $51 million. Sales also were lower, falling to $515 million from $603 million. Volume decreased to 821,000 tonnes from 1.16 million tonnes.
“Lower results were driven by South America where the small Argentine wheat crop negatively impacted our local upstream merchandising,” Mr. Neppl said. “This was partially offset by stronger structural margins in our milling operations in Brazil. Results in the US were down slightly. Segment results in the prior year benefited from very strong South American origination margins during a period of high market volatility. The increase in corporate expenses in the quarter was largely driven by growth-related initiatives, offset in part by an increase in other results primarily related to Bunge Ventures.”
Looking ahead to the rest of fiscal 2023, Mr. Neppl said full-year results in Agribusiness are forecast to be down from last year with slightly higher results in Processing expected to be more than offset by lower results in Merchandising. Full-year results in Refined and Specialty Oils are expected to be up from Bunge’s prior forecast but still below last year’s record performance. Milling, meanwhile, is forecast to be down in the full year, reflecting a more challenging-than-expected first quarter, he said.