NEW YORK, April 29 (Reuters) - Archer Daniels Midland said on Tuesday its cocoa business returned to a profit in the first quarter, the latest sign of a turnaround at a niche division just weeks after the U.S. food and farming giant said it dropped plans to sell its cocoa operations.
Operating profits for the cocoa business, which includes bean processing and chocolate making and lost $33 million in 2013, were $30 million in the first three months. That compares with a $27 million loss in the same period last year.
The result excludes a $24 million charge for cocoa hedge timing effects.
“The margin environment in the cocoa business continued to improve,” ADM said in a statement without giving more details.
The company processed 1.8 million tonnes of beans, up 2 percent from a year earlier.
Cocoa outperformed the overall group, which reported lower-than-expected earnings as harsh U.S. weather hurt its core grain trading.
The results come just weeks after ADM ditched plans to sell the business in its entirety after long-running talks collapsed.
Instead it will divest the chocolate manufacturing operations, which a spokeswoman said earlier this month was still loss making.
Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Alden Bentley