Cargill Power-Trading Loss Hurts Profit as China Blocks Corn

Apr 08, 2014 10:34 am ET

(Updates with protein unit earnings in seventh paragraph.)

April 8 (Bloomberg) -- Cargill Inc., the largest closely held U.S. company, posted a 28 percent decline in quarterly earnings after a loss on U.S. power trading while weather disrupted North American operations and China turned away some corn shipments.

Net income fell to $319 million in Cargill’s fiscal third quarter, which ended Feb. 28, from $445 million a year earlier, the Minneapolis-based company said in a statement today. Revenue was little changed at $32 billion.

Some of the trading loss, which was related to an “unprecedented” late January jump in U.S. power prices, has since been recovered, Cargill said. In February the company replaced a senior North American energy trader while disputing some details in a report by industry publication SparkSpread.com that it lost at least $100 million in U.S. energy trading.

Cargill said last month it will stop trading coal and European power and natural gas after oversupply and slowing demand pushed prices lower.

Cargill gets most of its revenue from the production and trading of agricultural commodities. Its origination and processing unit posted lower third-quarter profit after winter weather in North America disrupted rail services and China rejected some corn shipments. Cargill had to pay a penalty on vessels that were carrying the grain to China and reroute other ships, said Lisa Clemens, a Cargill spokeswoman.

China has turned away 887,000 tons of U.S. corn containing Syngenta AG’s variety MIR 162, which is genetically modified to kill pests and isn’t yet approved in the country. The disruption has also affected operations of other commodity trading companies such as Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Bunge Ltd.

Cargill said earnings rose “considerably” at its animal nutrition and protein unit on higher sales volumes and cost savings.

Forbes ranked Cargill the largest closely held U.S. company by revenue in a 2013 survey.