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CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. agribusiness and trading giant Cargill Inc CARG.UL said quarterly earnings rose 30 percent, lifted by its grain processing business.
Minneapolis-based Cargill, one of the world's largest privately held corporations, on Wednesday reported $763 million in earnings from continuing operations for the quarter ended February 28, up from $588 million a year earlier.
Revenue from its businesses, excluding fertilizer producer Mosaic (MOS.N), rose 21 percent to $30.5 billion.
Cargill also recorded earnings of $342 million attributable to its majority investment in Mosaic -- which it now classifies as discontinued operations following Cargill's decision to spin off its 64 percent interest in Mosaic, announced in January.
The spin-off is expected to be completed by midyear and is viewed as move by Cargill to stay private. Cargill reiterated on Wednesday it had no plans to go public.
Cargill, which operates in 66 countries, is a leading U.S. grain exporter, biofuels producer and energy trader.
"Cargill posted solid earnings in a period of volatile commodity markets and geopolitical change," Cargill's chief executive, Greg Page, said in statement. "All of us in agriculture are living with high levels of price volatility, in which small changes in the quantity of production are having dramatic impacts on price."
During the November-February quarter, for instance, corn prices on the Chicago Board of Trade and ICE cocoa futures spiked 36 percent, while soybean prices jumped 9 percent. CME cattle futures were up 7 percent.
Earnings at four of the company's five business segments increased, led by its grain origination and processing division. Results were also higher in its food ingredients and applications, risk management and financial services, and industrial sectors.
Earnings in agricultural services -- which offers grain hedging services to North American farmers and animal nutrition products -- were down from a year ago.
"Although the earnings declined slightly -- they had a very strong performance last year in the third quarter so part of it is that comparative impact," Cargill spokeswoman Lisa Clemens said.
Cargill completed three acquisitions in the quarter: Unilever's condiments business in Brazil, Royal Nedalco's alcohol operations and a majority stake purchase in PT Sorini Agro Asia Corporindo Tbk, an Indonesian food maker.
On Wednesday, Cargill announced it will be a financial and exclusive marketing partner of tradable emission credits for EOS Climate, a San Francisco company that uses market-based incentives to prevent greenhouse gas emissions associated with old refrigerators and cooling systems.
Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Dave Zimmerman