December 5, 2011 / 11:16 PM / in 6 years

Cargill layoff "makes sense," no rating change-Fitch

* Job cut decision “makes sense” given weak economy

* Cargill’s layoffs not cause for rating change

By Christine Stebbins

CHICAGO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The decision by commodities giant Cargill Incto cut about 2,000 employees from its global payrolls was prudent given world growth prospects, a Fitch Ratings analyst said on Monday.

“They were probably looking at their overall business with weaker performance in the first quarter and the slowing economy, it just makes sense,” said Judi Rossetti, analyst with Fitch Ratings.

“Given Cargill’s global size and scale those announced layoffs are not of a magnitude that would be any cause for concern or impact the company’s credit rating,” she said.

Though the layoffs are a small percentage of its overall work force -- 1.5 percent of its 138,000 employees in 63 countries -- the job cuts caught the attention of commodity traders globally as Cargill sits at the center of world commodities commerce.

Like Cargill, other big commodity firms such as Noble Group , Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge have all recently reported disappointing quarterly earnings.

Cargill said the cuts, which will take place over the next six months, were made on recommendations from its various business units and was not a “uniform across-the-board” cut.

“At this time, we do not have any breakdowns. We do know they will not be concentrated in any one city, country or region,” Lisa Clemens, Cargill spokeswoman, told Reuters on Friday.

“Cargill did have poor operating performance in the fiscal first quarter. However, quarter-to-quarter volatility is common among agribusiness companies,” Rossetti said.

Cargill earnings for the quarter ended Aug. 31 were down 66 percent at $236 million, with the company citing economic uncertainty and volatile commodity markets. But 2011 earnings were up 35 percent at $2.69 billion and full-year revenues reached $119.5 billion, up 18 percent from 2010.

Both Fitch and Standard and Poor‘s, after those first-quarter earnings, still rated Cargill’s latest $500 million in 20-year notes as investment grade “A,” affirming the company’s long-term prospects.

“Our view of its financial profile reflects a highly liquid balance sheet ... less reliance by Cargill on earnings contribution from the company’s risk management and financial segment ... and our belief that the company will maintain credit measures that are indicative of those consistent with an intermediate financial profile,” S&P said on Nov. 7.

“What we look at is annual results and the outlook for the medium term,” Rossetti said on Monday.

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