Bunge Reports Q1 Loss Amidst 'Challenging' Start To 2009

Bunge Ltd reported a first-quarter net loss attributable to common shareholders of $214 million or $1.76 per share, compared to net income of $270 million or $2.10 per share in the same quarter last year.

Alberto Weisser, Bunge’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer stated, “The start to 2009 was more challenging than expected. Bunge's first quarter results reflect this. Retail fertilizer margins in Brazil suffered from aggressive price reductions by competitors, which drove sales prices below international levels. Additionally, global demand for soybean meal was soft. Despite this difficult start, our confidence in a recovery in our markets and a solid performance in the second half of the year remains strong.

“We are working through our higher cost fertilizer inventory, and the supply of fertilizer products in the Brazilian retail channel has been reduced by approximately 30% since the end of 2008 and is approaching historical seasonal levels. Both of these facts should improve margins as the year progresses.

“Higher commodity prices, resulting from tighter global oilseed stocks, are supporting farmer economics, and should help stimulate sales of fertilizer products in the second half of the year when South America enters its next major planting season. Since mid- January, the USDA has reduced its estimate for global soybean production by nearly 15 million metric tons mainly due to weather-related production issues in South America. “Global soybean meal consumption in the first quarter fell by roughly 6% compared to the same period in 2008. While this figure represents a relative improvement over the 9.5% year-over-year reduction in the fourth quarter of 2008, consumption was slightly lower than expected. We are, however, seeing signs of stabilization in the poultry and pork industries, and we estimate soybean meal demand for the calendar year to be up about 1% versus 2008.

“Periods of lower demand for our core products have historically been short-lived, and the products and services that we and our industry provide are necessary in all types of economic climates. Looking ahead, the world will need good harvests in North America in 2009 and South America in 2010 to alleviate tight agricultural commodity supplies and meet recovering demand. We believe Bunge is well positioned to benefit from these opportunities.”