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UPDATE 3-Bunge posts profit on South America, gain from Beyond Meat investment

Karl Plume

investment@ (Adds CEO quote, adds earnings impact from U.S. weather, updates share price)

CHICAGO, July 31 (Reuters) - Agricultural commodities trader Bunge Ltd swung to a profit in the second quarter from a year-ago loss, helped by improved results at its South American operations.

Bunge also reported an unrealized gain from the company's stake in Beyond Meat Inc, meaning it could profit from the plant-based burger venture if it sells its shares in the future.

Though profits were tempered by weak export demand resulting from trade tensions between the United States and China and harsh U.S. spring weather, they topped Wall Street expectations and Bunge's operations in Brazil and Argentina make it better placed than many rivals.

Shares rose 4.1% to $58.66, more than a seven-month high.

Bunge 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 Archer Daniels Midland Co , Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co have been cutting costs and restructuring operations as years of oversupplied grains markets dragged down prices and sapped trading opportunities for the companies, known as the ABCD quartet of grain traders.

Trade tensions and adverse U.S. weather added further pressure. 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.

The weather sliced about $13 million from Bunge's second-quarter profit, Chief Financial Officer John Neppl said.

Massive culling of hogs in China because of African swine fever is also "a major source of uncertainty" for the industry's animal feed suppliers, Chief Executive Greg Heckman said.

"Combined with the unresolved U.S.-China trade situation, this has altered both typical trade flows and producer marketing patterns," he said on a conference call with analysts.

Heckman was appointed acting CEO in January, after a string of disappointing results, and took on the job permanently in April. The company also posted a first-quarter profit.

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

Adjusted earnings of 61 cents per share topped the average estimate for 34 cents a share, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Profits in Bunge's agribusiness unit were boosted by timing effects in soybean crushing operations of about $70 million that it said will reverse in the third quarter when soy products are sold.

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 Nick Zieminski and Steve Orlofsky)