×

UPDATE 3-Bunge leaves door open on selling itself, cuts 2017 forecast

(Recasts with CEO comments on consolidation, updates share price)

Aug 2 (Reuters) - Bunge Ltd kept the door open on a sale of the company on Wednesday as it reported a 34 percent drop in quarterly earnings and cut its full-year outlook, but its chief executive officer said that planned cost cuts should help improve performance.

The agricultural commodities trader, which rebuffed an approach from rival Glencore Plc in May, will "evaluate the best path," CEO Soren Schroder told analysts on a conference call, when asked whether selling the company was an option.

"There's no entrenchment," he added.

Bunge unveiled a cost-cutting and restructuring plan last month that is said will slash costs by $250 million by the end of 2019.

Bunge and rivals Archer Daniels Midland Co, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co, known as the ABCDs in global grain trading, have been stung by a glut of crops following four years of bumper harvests around the world.

On Tuesday, rival Archer Daniels said slow farmer sales in South America dragged down profits for its soybean processing business.

Some analysts expect Bunge's second consecutive weak quarter to invite another approach by Glencore while others believe the overhaul could buy time to deliver on promised growth.

The latest results matched Wall Street's lowered estimates after the company warned of a shortfall last month.

Despite the rosier forecast for the rest of the year, Bunge lowered the full-year earnings estimate for its agribusiness and food and ingredients units for a second straight quarter.

"We are optimistic about a much better second half of the year, but some market headwinds will persist," said Chief Executive Officer Soren Schroder.

The second quarter was marked by slow farmer selling in South America and a difficult export market as ample global crop supplies and hand-to-mouth buying by importers limited trading opportunities.

The company sold 36.2 million metric tons of grains and other commodities in its agribusiness in the second quarter, but gross profit from the business fell more than half to $157 million.

On Wednesday, the company slashed its full-year agribusiness earnings target to $550 to $650 million, from $800 to $925 million in the first quarter, and its food and ingredients target to $210 million to $230 million, from $245 to $265 million.

Net income available to shareholders fell to $72 million, or 51 cents per share, in the quarter, from $109 million, or 78 cents per share, a year earlier.

Bunge shares were down 0.5 percent at $77.73 after opening higher on Wednesday. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Additional reporting by Ahmed Farhatha in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Jeffrey Benkoe)