×

UPDATE 3-Bunge again cuts earnings outlook amid grains glut

(Adds CEO quote, adds share price)

CHICAGO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - U.S. agricultural giant Bunge Ltd on Wednesday cut the full-year forecast for its core agribusiness unit after posting lower year-on-year profit for the third quarter in a row on flat revenue.

The company, however, said it expects a stronger fourth quarter on bumper U.S. corn and soy harvests, and forecast improved results in 2018, due partly to cost cutting.

Shares were up about 3.1 percent in early trading.

"While the business environment remains very competitive, we can see signs of improvement and are taking proactive steps in areas we can control," Chief Executive Soren Schroder said in a conference call with analysts.

A global oversupply of crops has hammered profits in the grain trading and processing units of Bunge and its chief rivals, forcing rounds of cost-cutting that look to spill into 2018.

On Tuesday, rival Archer Daniels Midland Co reported earnings fell 44 percent from a year earlier on charges and said it did not see conditions improving next year.

The companies are trying to diversify through acquisitions into higher-margin businesses, such as food ingredients, but results have been slow to offset the continued challenges to their mainstay trading business from the supply glut.

Third-quarter operating profit for Bunge's agribusiness unit, its largest in terms of volume and revenue, rose about 2.5 percent from the same quarter last year.

The company said it expects 2017 earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of $425 million to $500 million in agribusiness.

In February, the company said it expected 2017 EBIT of $895 million and $1.05 billion for the unit, which makes money trading, storing and processing crops.

Bunge executives have said overcapacity is moving the industry toward consolidation and they are prepared to lead it, but the company itself was the target of a takeover attempt by commodities trader Glencore Plc in May, which it rebuffed.

Bunge has since announced cost cutting and restructuring initiatives to halt a profit slump. It also issued about $1 billion in debt to secure a controlling stake in a Malaysian palm oil company to bolster its higher margin edible oils business.

Bunge said net income available to shareholders fell to $84 million, or 59 cents per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30 from $116 million, or 83 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, a profit of 75 cents per share beat the average analyst estimate of 73 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales were flat at $11.42 billion. (Additional reporting by Akshara P in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bernadette Baum)