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UPDATE 2-Bunge swings to quarterly profit on venture investment, South America strength

Karl Plume

America strength@ (Adds earnings details, analyst forecast, background, adds byline and PIX available)

CHICAGO, July 31 (Reuters) - Agricultural commodities trader Bunge Ltd swung to a profit in the second quarter from a year-ago loss, helped by an unrealized gain from its stake in plant-based burger venture Beyond Meat Inc and improved results at its South American operations.

Gains were partly offset by weak export demand due to trade tensions between the United States and China and harsh U.S. weather that disrupted grain processing and transportation and stalled spring planting.

Shares were higher in pre-market trading.

The White Plains, New York-based company left its previous earnings forecast unchanged, with results for its agribusiness segment, Bunge's largest in terms of revenue, seen lower in 2019 amid uncertainty about late-planted U.S. crops and the U.S.-China trade war.

Bunge and its agribusiness peers, including Archer Daniels Midland Co, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co , have been cutting costs and restructuring operations to navigate through a particularly difficult time for the sector.

Years of oversupplied grains markets dragged down prices and sapped trading opportunities for the companies, known as the ABCD quartet of grain traders, before trade tensions disrupted demand and redrew global supply chains.

Weather woes in the United States added further pressure as the grain merchants faced processing-plant downtime, rail and barge shipping delays and other supply uncertainty this spring as historic floods ravaged the central United States.

Bunge's quarterly result topped Wall Street expectations as the company's investment in Beyond Meat continued to outperform. The meat alternatives company's shares have surged more than 780% since its May IPO.

Net income available to the shareholders was $205 million, or $1.43 per share, in the second quarter ended June 30, compared with a loss of $21 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings of 61 cents per share, excluding a 90-cent-per-share net unrealized gain from the Beyond Meat investment, topped the consensus estimate for 34 cents a share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Sales fell to $10.10 billion from $12.15 billion, missing the consensus estimate for $12.16 billion.

Bunge's agribusiness unit posted a higher profit for the quarter on timing effects from soybean crushing of about $70 million, which the company said would reverse in the third quarter. Although trade war uncertainty remained a headwind for the segment, trading and distribution results improved from a year ago.

Food and ingredients and fertilizer earnings improved, while sugar and bioenergy posted a smaller loss than a year ago.

(Additional reporting by Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Nick Zieminski)