UPDATE 2-ADM earnings beat on higher income at agri, corn businesses

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Feb 6 (Reuters) - Top U.S. grains merchant Archer Daniels Midland Co posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, helped by higher profits in its agricultural services and corn processing businesses.

ADM, which buys, stores and ships commodity crops, has been trying to boost earnings by investing in higher-margin businesses to support itself in a volatile commodity market affected by projections of massive grain inventories, which has led to thin margins at grain traders.

To offset the pricing pressure, there has been speculation of consolidation in the sector, with recent media reports saying ADM was in talks to buy smaller rival Bunge Ltd. ADM made no mention of any merger talks in its earnings report on Tuesday.

ADM said profit from its agricultural services business jumped nearly 23 percent to $301 million last quarter, helped by higher marketing and insurance income.

Profit from selling processed products such as sweeteners, starches and bioproducts rose 2.3 percent to $261 million.

Overall, net earnings rose to $788 million, or $1.39 per share, from $424 million, or 73 cents per share, a year earlier, also helped by a $249 million tax benefit.

Excluding items, ADM earned 82 cents per share, beating analysts' average estimate by 12 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

However, ADM's total revenue fell 2.6 percent to $16.07 billion in the three months ended Dec. 31, amid continued weak demand for U.S. grains. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sayantani Ghosh)