(Adds detail on earnings, comments on outlook)
* Q3 net profit $405.8 mln vs $321 mln a year ago
* Oilseeds and grains post pre-tax profit of $60.3 mln
* Positive contribution from sugar business
By Eveline Danubrata
SINGAPORE, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Singapore palm oil firm Wilmar International Ltd beat forecasts with a 26 percent rise in third-quarter net profit, helped by its sugar business and a rebound at its oilseeds and grains unit after two quarters of losses.
Wilmar, whose stock has slumped 38 percent this year mainly due to losses at its China business, said it remained positive on its long-term prospects due to economic growth in China, India and Indonesia, as well as increased palm oil production in Indonesia.
July-September net profit rose to $405.8 million, up from $321 million a year earlier, and well ahead of forecasts for an average $335 million, based on a Reuters poll of five analysts.
The company’s oilseeds and grains segment posted a pre-tax profit of $60.3 million, mainly due to improved crushing margins and better timing for its purchase of raw materials. The unit lost $92.5 million in the first half of 2012 as overcapacity in China put pressure on margins.
Its sugar business also posted better results as the sugar crushing season went into full swing in the quarter.
Wilmar joined agribusiness giants Archer Daniels Midland Co and Cargill Inc in posting improved quarterly earnings.
Wilmar shares closed at S$3.12 on Thursday. The stock’s 38 percent decline this year lags a 14 percent gain in the broader Straits Times Index.
In the large and midcap food products industry, Wilmar is among the worst performers out of nearly 200 stocks worldwide, Thomson Reuters StarMine data shows.
Out of 26 analysts tracking Wilmar, 13 had a ‘hold’ rating, eight had ‘sell’ or ‘strong sell’, while five had ‘strong buy’ or ‘buy’, according to Thomson Reuters data. (Reporting by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Richard Pullin)