March 17, 2020 / 8:42 PM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-New Zealand's Fonterra posts jump in profit, flags virus risks to demand

(Adds comments on coronavirus, background on overseas asset sales)

March 18 (Reuters) - Fonterra , the world’s biggest dairy exporter, reported a jump in half-year adjusted profit on Wednesday and said it expects the coronavirus outbreak to pose risks to global demand.

“Fonterra is now operating in a very different global context as a result of COVID-19,” Chief Executive Officer Miles Hurrell said in a statement, as the New Zealand-based company decided not to declare a dividend.

The dairy giant, which also reaffirmed its full-year forecast for normalised earnings, has been offloading overseas milk production centres after its ill-fated expansion saw profits smashed and left many of its 10,000 plus farmers, who make up its cooperative, unhappy.

“We are now a very different Co-op to this time last year – we’re prioritising New Zealand milk and staying focused on what we know we’re good at and what makes a difference to our farmer owners, unit holders, employees and communities,” Hurrell said.

The company cut its debt by NZ$1.6 billion ($949.44 million) over the half to NZ$5.8 billion, thanks to the sale of its DFE Pharma and Foodspring units.

Fonterra also said the sale process for China Farms and DPA Brazil were underway as part of its asset review.

Normalised net profit after tax came in at NZ$293 million for the six months ended Jan. 31, up from NZ$72 million a year earlier.

$1 = 1.6852 New Zealand dollars Reporting by Anushka Trivedi AND Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Maju Samuel

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