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ADM 1Q Net Down 31% On Ethanol, European Oilseeds

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Archer Daniels Midland Co.'s (ADM) fiscal third-quarter earnings fell 31% as the agribusiness giant saw its margins squeezed for ethanol and European oilseeds. ADM, one of the world's largest grain traders and processors, has struggled to post consistent results in recent quarters as market volatility has cut into trading profits. In January, the company said it would lay off around 1,000 people, or about 3% of its workforce, in a bid to bolster its international competitiveness. The company had warned that it expected a pretax charge of $50 million to $75 million in the latest quarter. ADM saw benefits from cost reductions starting this month and saving about $100 million annually. In a further effort to streamline its operations, the company said in March that it was reorganizing several of its business units, while four longtime executives said they were retiring. For the quarter ended March 31, the company posted a profit of $399 million, or 60 cents a share, down from $578 million, or 86 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 5.4% to $21.16 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were looking for earnings of 59 cents on revenue of $21.38 billion. Adjusted earnings excluding restructuring charges, an accounting method called LIFO and other items fell to 78 cents from 89 cents. Gross margin shrank to 4.8% from 5.8%. In the agricultural division, which handles grain from farm to end-user, net sales fell 0.5%. The oilseeds processing segment's operating profit sank to $395 million from $512 million, even as sales rose 14%. Processing volume rose 6.2%. The corn-processing business posted 15% higher sales from a year ago, as volume was up 9.6%. Shares closed Monday at $30.83 and were inactive premarket. The stock is up 7.8% so far this year. -By Kristin Jones; Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2208;

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