Cargill’s bottom line for the second quarter was fat, courtesy of cash from the sale of two large businesses. But remove those one-time gains and Cargill’s profits were down 13 percent, hurt by weakness in businesses from beef and salt to money management.
Plus, the company took another charge against earnings for its operations in Venezuela, where like many other U.S. firms, Cargill has been stymied by the country’s political and economic chaos.
Cargill on Thursday reported adjusted second-quarter profits of $574 million, down from $657 million a year ago, as earnings declined in all four of the agribusiness giant’s major business segments.
However, Minnetonka-based Cargill’s net income was $1.39 billion for the quarter ending Nov. 30 — up 77 percent from a year ago — as the company booked gains on the sales of its U.S. pork business and its interest in a steel making joint venture.
Second-quarter revenue at Cargill fell 10 percent from a year ago to $27.3 billion, reflecting lower commodity prices and weaker demand in some markets.
“Cargill posted a solid second quarter against a strong comparative period in the prior fiscal year,” Chief Executive David MacLennan said in a statement. “We saw performance gains in key global businesses.”
However, earnings were curbed in Cargill’s beef business due to weak economic conditions at U.S. cattle feedlots and a decrease in cattle supply in Australia. That weakness led to a slight second-quarter profit decrease in Cargill’s Animal & Protein business.
An unseasonably warm start to winter in North America led to lower results in Cargill’s North American salt and de-icing business. That decline helped cause an overall slip in second-quarter earnings in the company’s Food Ingredients & Applications division.
Cargill’s Industrial and Finance Services business, its smallest major segment, suffered a significant decrease in operating earnings over a year ago, due partly to the liquidation of four hedge funds at its Black River Asset Management subsidiary, which is now being phased out.
Cargill took a charge during the second quarter as it changed its accounting treatment for operations in Venezuela, where it appears to be losing control of its business.
In accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), Cargill is no longer consolidating its Venezuelan operations into its financial statements. The reason: an inability to convert Venezuelan bolívares to U.S. dollars — or pay U.S. dollar dividends — combined with a decreasing ability to “exercise operational decisionmaking authority” in the country.
Cargill employs about 2,000 people in Venezuela. Venezuela’s currency has lost considerable value over the past year; the country has the highest inflation rate in the world; and its economy is contracting as the price of its chief export — oil — has plummeted.
Cargill’s loss in Venezuela was offset by gains on the $1.5 billion sale of the company’s U.S. pork business to Brazilian meat giant JBS, as well as the $720 million disposition of Cargill’s 50 percent interest in the North Star BlueScope Steel joint venture, which operates a mill in Ohio.