November 6, 2018 / 12:31 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 3-ADM profit beats estimates on oilseed crushing, corn exports

(Adds comments from ADM executives, share price)

By Tom Polansek

Nov 6 (Reuters) - Archer Daniels Midland Co reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday, as the U.S. grain merchant cashed in on strong oilseed crushing margins and export sales of American corn.

Export demand for U.S. crops came from countries other than China, ADM said, as an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China curtailed shipments of U.S. farm products, including soybeans and sorghum, to the Asian nation.

Sales to other buyers help offset the sting of the trade row, which has reordered the global grains business.

China, the world's top soy importer, has been buying soybeans from Brazil after Beijing imposed a tariff on U.S. imports in July. It may not need to turn back to the United States before South America harvests its next crop, ADM Chief Executive Officer Juan Luciano said.

"Certainly we're not going to have the China demand pool, but the rest of the world will be coming to us, particularly for corn," Luciano said on a conference call.

China is not a frequent importer of U.S. corn, but droughts in Brazil and Argentina have made buyers more reliant on the United States.

ADM is among four companies that dominate the flow of agricultural goods around the world, competing against Bunge Ltd , Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Corp.

ADM may look at mergers and acquisitions in general if a deal makes sense, Chief Financial Officer Ray Young said on the call. ADM and commodity trader Glencore have previously made takeover approaches to Bunge.

Young added that global demand for soymeal would remain robust next year, supporting ADM's crushing margins.

Strong margins have generated profits for global processors after a glut of crops hurt results in recent years. Margins improved after drought reduced soymeal exports from Argentina, the world's top supplier.

Operating profits for ADM's oilseeds business more than tripled to $349 million in the quarter through Sept. 30. The company said it set a new record for crush volumes.

"Record U.S. yields along with reduced export demand have kept a lid on CBOT soybean prices while demand for soy meal remains robust," JP Morgan analyst Ann Duignan said.

Net profit attributable to ADM surged to $536 million, or 94 cents per share, from $192 million, or 34 cents, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 92 cents per share, beating analysts' average estimate of 83 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue rose to $15.80 billion from $14.83 billion.

Shares rose slightly to $48.16.

Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago and Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Bernadette Baum

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