May 8, 2019 / 10:28 AM / 11 days ago

UPDATE 2-Bunge posts profit on higher soy crush margins, appoints new CFO

(Adds management changes, CEO quote, adjusted EPS estimate, byline)

By Karl Plume

CHICAGO, May 8 (Reuters) - U.S. agricultural commodities trader Bunge Ltd reported a first-quarter profit on Wednesday as higher soy crush margins in the United States, Brazil and Europe lifted results for its agribusiness unit, which the company said it is restructuring.

The company announced management changes for the segment, its largest in terms of revenue and volumes, and unveiled a new global operating model, shifting away from a regional structure.

Bunge's operating structure previously included three regions: North America, South America, and Europe and Asia.

The changes come after a string of weak earnings by the 200-year-old company, which has been stung by a global grains glut and slumping commodities prices made worse by a bruising trade war between the United States and China.

Bunge appointed John Neppl as chief financial officer, effective May 29. Neppl joins from U.S. ethanol producer Green Plains Inc.

The moves "will simplify the organization and speed up decision making, increasing our strategic flexibility, customer focus and accountability," said Greg Heckman, who was named as Bunge's new CEO last month.

Former president of South American sugar and bioenergy Raul Padilla was named president of global operations, overseeing crop handling and processing.

Christos Dimopoulos, formerly president of agribusiness, was appointed president of global supply chains, charged with managing Bunge's trading and transportation activities.

Bunge said it continues to evaluate its operations as part of a strategic portfolio review announced last year.

The company reported net profit from continuing operations of $45 million, or 26 cents per share, compared with a loss of $21 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

The year-ago loss reflected a $120 million charge resulting from devaluation of some oilseed crushing contracts.

Adjusted net income was 36 cents per share in the first quarter, topping the 3 cents-per-share loss expected by analysts on average, according to Refinitiv data.

Net sales in the reported quarter fell to $9.94 billion from $10.64 billion.

Bunge, one of the "ABCD" companies that dominate global grains trading along with Archer Daniels Midland Co, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co, said gross profit at the agribusiness segment rose to $235 million from $203 million. (Additional reporting by Shradha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Steve Orlofsky)

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