UPDATE 3-Bunge posts surprise operating loss, cuts outlook

Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:05pm BST

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* Q2 loss/share ex-items $0.57; Wall St view profit $1.31

* Net sales $11 bln vs Wall St view $12.2 bln

* Cuts 2010 outlook to $3.25-$3.50/share from $5.30-$5.80

* Shares down 13 pct; biggest drop in 18 months (Adds quotes, background; updates share price)

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, July 29 (Reuters) - Bunge Ltd (BG.N) posted a surprising quarterly loss before a gain from the sale of its fertilizer nutrients assets and the agricultural processor slashed its full-year earnings outlook, sending its shares down 13 percent.

The company attributed the disappointing second-quarter results primarily to low volumes and margins in agribusiness, its largest business segment. It said it sees a more challenging oilseed-crushing market than anticipated.

"The miss was broad-based across all segments, though agribusiness, sugar and fertilizer were the clear underperformers due to unfavorable hedges, weaker than expected milling yields, and aggressive competition," Vincent Andrews, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, said in a note to clients.

Bunge reported a net profit of $1.8 billion, or $11.15 per share, up from $313 million, or $2.28 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding the $2.4 billion gain, Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S said Bunge posted a loss of 57 cents per share, well below the $1.31 profit analysts were expecting.

Revenue was flat at $10.97 billion, missing the analysts' average forecast of $12.17 billion.

Bunge cut its full-year operating earnings forecast for a second consecutive quarter to a range of $3.25 to $3.50 per share from $5.30 to $5.80.

"The reduction in full-year net income is driven partly by lower than expected earnings in the second quarter, which we will not be able to recover," said Bunge CFO Jacqualyn Fouse.

Weak oilseed processing margins also prompted the move, along with a weaker-than-anticipated second-half outlook, as Bunge continues to restructure its Brazilian operations, she said.

Bunge, based in White Plains, New York, is among the world's largest agricultural processors. It has become one of the top sugar and ethanol producers in South America with several recent acquisitions, but has significantly scaled back its fertilizer business there.

AGRIBUSINESS DOWN

Elevated oilseed prices in the second quarter due to tight supplies and strong end-user demand squeezed Bunge's margins from processing that crop in the United States and South America.

Profit at the agribusiness segment fell to $28 million, from $435 million a year earlier.

Earnings in the sugar and bioenergy segment fell to $4 million from $13 million as mill expansion and construction costs offset an improved sugarcane milling performance after Bunge's acquisition of cane and ethanol producer Moema.

The fertilizer segment posted earnings of $2.37 billion, compared with a year-earlier loss of $53 million. The latest results included gains from the sale of Brazilian fertilizer assets to mining giant Vale SA (VALE5.SA), but suffered from slower fertilizer sales and tight margins.

Restructuring costs and other expenses led to a $13 million loss in edible oils, compared with a year-earlier profit of $10 million.

Earnings for the milling products segment, which includes corn and wheat processing operations, fell to $1 million from $14 million.

Bunge shares on the New York Stock Exchange were down 13 percent on Thursday afternoon at $46.77. (Reporting by Karl Plume; editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Lisa Von Ahn and Andre Grenon)

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