January 10, 2019 / 7:23 AM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Suedzucker swings to operating loss on low sugar prices

* Reaffirms expectations for full-year group operating profit

* Forecasts full-year loss for sugar operations (Adds detail, comment)

HAMBURG, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Germany’s Suedzucker, Europe’s largest sugar refiner, on Thursday reported a third-quarter operating loss, hit by the global collapse in sugar prices.

The group posted an operating loss of 23 million euros ($26.6 million) in the three months to Nov. 30, compared with an operating profit of 103 million euros a year earlier, with quarterly revenue dropping 5.1 percent to 1.71 billion euros.

Suedzucker reiterated its expectations for group operating profit of 25 million to 125 million euros in the 2018/19 financial year, down from the previous year’s 445 million euros.

It also repeated its forecast for full-year group revenue of 6.6 billion to 6.9 billion euros, against the previous year’s 7 billion euros.

The group also has extensive non-sugar interests, from bioethanol to fruit and processed foods.

Suedzucker shares fell 3.8 percent in pre-market trade.

“The main reason for the quarterly result are low sugar prices,” a Suedzucker spokesman said. “The EU’s market liberalisation means that falling world prices also depress prices in Europe.

“Demand in Europe is almost stable, but prices are falling. World sugar demand is still rising but prices are low.”

Raw sugar futures ended 2018 at their lowest in 10 years, pressured by heavy global oversupply.

The European Union liberalised its sugar market in September 2017, ending its system of guaranteed minimum prices and protected production quotas. This gave producers more freedom to expand and export, but a worst-case scenario emerged, with European producers exposed to collapsing world prices.

Suedzucker posted a third-quarter operating loss in its sugar business of 85 million euros, from an operating profit of 38 million euros a year earlier.

The company forecasts that its sugar business will suffer a 2018/19 full-year operating loss of between 150 million and 250 million euros, against an operating profit of 139 million euros the previous year.

“We have seen a recovery in world sugar prices since October 2018, but we cannot see a full turnaround in the sugar market so cannot give an-all clear signal,” the spokesman said.

Suedzucker said in July thatr it was reassessing its sugar sector strategy and considering new options to reduce costs.

The strategy examination and reassessment of its sugar operations “will be intensified”, the company said on Thursday. (Reporting by Michael Hogan Editing by David Goodman)

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