May 15, 2014 / 9:57 AM / in 4 years

Noble Group quarterly profit jumps on robust metals, energy segments

SINGAPORE, May 15 (Reuters) - Commodities trader Noble Group Ltd said on Thursday its net profit in the quarter ended March 31 more than tripled, with strong performance in the metals and energy segments more than offsetting the loss in its agriculture business.

The Hong Kong-based company reported a net profit of $152.3 million, up from $41.3 million for the same period a year earlier, partly due to a sharp decline in post-tax loss from agricultural operations held for sale.

Revenue for the quarter fell 7 percent to $18.0 billion, though operating income rose 30 percent, Noble said in a statement.

Noble’s agriculture business posted an operating loss of $42 million, as weak soybean crushing margins in China offset solid performance in South America.

The soft commodities business performed well, though coffee was impacted by extreme volatility in prices, the company said.

COFCO Corp, China’s largest grain trader, has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for a majority stake in Noble’s agribusiness. The deal would add volume to Noble’s trading business via COFCO and allow it to reduce debt.

The deal is pending regulatory and shareholder approvals. Noble’s share price has jumped over 20 percent since early March. The shares fell 1.2 percent on Thursday to end at S$1.225 before the results were released.

The metals, minerals and ores business recorded strong performance, boosted by all-time high physical premium for aluminium, Noble said. Operating income from supply chains in the division more than quadrupled to $70 million.

Noble, which counts China’s sovereign wealth fund - China Investment Corp - as one of its key shareholders, has been growing its metals, minerals and ores business aggressively in recent years.

The energy segment posted an all-time high operating income of $437 million, up 19 percent on the year, as margins improved, Noble said. (Reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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