Agri-business group Wilmar International lifted first-quarter earnings thanks to a steady performance from its oilseeds and grains segments and smaller losses from sugar.
Net profit rose 3.2 per cent to US$239.4 million (S$327.9 million) for the three months to March 31 from a year earlier, while revenue fell 4.3 per cent to US$9 billion due to lower commodity prices.
Oilseeds and grains recorded growth in consumer products sales and continued improvement in its rice and flour operations, while losses in the sugar segment due to seasonal plant maintenance in the first half of the year were mitigated by a stronger performance in its merchandising business and higher sales from Indonesian refineries.
Tropical oils posted stronger earnings due to an improved showing from the group's downstream operations, which benefited from lower commodity prices.
The El Nino phenomenon was partly behind production yields for the quarter dropping 5 per cent to 4.3 tonnes per hectare as fresh fruit bunch production fell 6 per cent to 902,035 tonnes.
AT A GLANCE
REVENUE: US$9 billion (-4.3 per cent)
NET PROFIT: US$239.4 million (3.2 per cent)
Total sales volume was flat at 5.6 million tonnes for the quarter, supported by steady demand from downstream businesses.
But the group's core net profit fell 12 per cent to US$222.4 million for the quarter due to weaker contributions from joint ventures and associates as well as a one-off provision for impairment costs of US$22.7 million.
Earnings per share for the quarter was 3.8 US cents, up from 3.6 US cents a year earlier, while net asset value per share rose to US$2.332 as at March 31, from US$2.282 as at Dec 31 last year.
No dividend was declared.
Chairman and chief executive Kuok Khoon Hong said in a statement yesterday: "We expect the recent improvements in crude palm oil prices to benefit our plantation business.
"However, this will be partially offset by lower margins in our downstream businesses due to higher feedstock costs.
"Recent volatility in sugar prices will also have an effect on our sugar operations. Operating conditions in the second quarter are expected to be challenging."
Wilmar shares closed down 2.3 per cent, or eight cents, to $3.41.