Bunge raises 2021 profit outlook on higher food, renewable fuel demand

The sun sets behind grain elevators at the Bunge Grain facility along the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky, U.S., September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo/File Photo

Oct 27 (Reuters) - Bunge Ltd (BG.N) reported stronger-than-expected third-quarter results and raised its full-year profit outlook on Wednesday for a third time this year amid improved demand for food and renewable fuel as pandemic restrictions have eased.

Although volumes in the U.S. agricultural commodities trader's core agribusiness and its refined and specialty oils units were down, robust oilseed processing margins propelled the earnings beat for Bunge.

"We expect the favorable market trends to continue," Chief Executive Officer Greg Heckman said.

Shares jumped about 3% in early trading.

St. Louis, Missouri-based Bunge now expects full-year adjusted income to be at least $11.50 per share, up from a previous outlook of at least $8.50 per share.

Bunge's results offered the latest look into how the world's largest grain traders navigated the coronavirus pandemic and the shifts it triggered in food and fuel demand as consumers cooked more meals at home and avoided unnecessary travel.

Bunge and rivals Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and ADM, which reported a third-quarter profit jumpon Tuesday, are thriving as some pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

Adjusted profit in agribusiness, Bunge's largest segment, rose 10% in the quarter while rising vegetable oils demand for producing renewable fuels helped more than double the refined and specialty oils unit's profit.

Bunge expects strong vegoil demand to elevate earnings above baseline levels "for the next couple of years," Heckman said.

Higher energy costs, however, may squeeze margins and could curb crushing rates in some regions, he said.

"We'll pull back crush if margins get squeezed by the energies," Heckman said.

Net income attributable to Bunge rose to $653 million, or $4.28 per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30 from $262 million, or $1.84 per a share, a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings of $3.72 per share, up from $2.47 a year ago, topped the consensus estimate of $1.42, according to Refinitiv IBES.

Revenue totaled $14.12 billion, up from $10.16 billion a year earlier.

Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago and Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Bernadette Baum and Mark Porter

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Thomson Reuters

Chicago-based senior commodities correspondent covering agricultural markets, large agribusinesses and the food supply chain and specializing in global trade, farming technology and climate change issues impacting the industry.