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UPDATE 1-Brazil's JBS swings back to profit in Q1 on strong U.S. meat business

(Adds details from earnings release)

SAO PAULO, May 12 (Reuters) - JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, returned to profitability in the first quarter thanks to the strong performance of its U.S. meat operation, it said in an earnings statement on Wednesday.

The Brazil-based company posted a net profit of 2 billion reais ($377 million) in the quarter ended March 31, versus a 5.93 billion real loss in the same period of last year.

In the United States, JBS said its robust operating performance was “exceptionally good”, benefiting from strong demand for meat as restaurants started to reopen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Exports to Asian countries from the United States were also a boon, the company said.

High feed prices weighed on the margins of JBS’ Seara food division in Brazil, sliding to 11.9% from 16.9% a year earlier after a steep increase in soy meal corn prices that are key ingredients for livestock feed.

The company also reported a 3.5 billion-real cash burn in the first quarter, after settling corruption and antitrust fines with U.S. authorities. Those charges amounted to 1.1 billion reais in the first quarter of 2021, JBS said. ($1 = 5.3041 reais) (Reporting by Nayara Figueiredo; writing by Ana Mano; editing by Richard Pullin )

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