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KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 (Reuters) - Malaysia's Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd, the world's third largest palm plantation operator, reported a small first quarter profit on Wednesday, up from a loss a year ago, on increased production and lower costs.
Net profit for the quarter ended March came in at 2.5 million ringgit ($585,000), compared with an 81.1 million ringgit net loss in the same quarter a year ago.
Revenue rose to 4.32 billion ringgit, versus 3.8 billion ringgit last year.
Felda Global said its upstream operations recorded a 16 percent year-on-year increase in crude palm oil (CPO) output, while production costs fell 5 percent.
"We expect average CPO price to be around 2,550-2,750 ringgit per tonne for the second half 2017," Zakaria Arshad, Felda Global's chief executive, said in a statement released during the midday break on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange.
The benchmark palm oil price has fallen from around 3,100 ringgit at the start of 2017 to around 2,509 ringgit at present due to rising output as the crop damaging effects of a dry weather El Nino wear off.
Zakaria's price forecast was based on expectations of rising output of fresh fruit bunches from Malaysia and Indonesia, the world's top two palm oil producers.
Malaysia's overall production this year, however, is expected to be below 2015 levels due to acute labour shortages, which "could moderate the bearish CPO price outlook," he said.
Felda Global was working to secure a sufficient labour force and working on increased mechanisation, he added.
Before the break, Felda Global's shares were down 5 percent, underperforming a 0.02 percent dip in the benchmark index .
For the full statement: bit.ly/2qEl80a
$1 = 4.2750 ringgit Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Richard Pullin