Adjusted operating earnings were $476m, down 41% from the $809m earned in last year’s record fourth quarter. This brought earnings for the full fiscal year to $2.82bn, 12% below last year’s top performance.
Net earnings on a U.S. GAAP basis were $235m, down 67% from $711m in the strong comparative period. For the 12 months, net earnings decreased 17% to $2.56bn.
Fourth-quarter and full-year revenues each dipped 1% to $29.9bn and $113.5 bn, respectively. Cash flow from operations equalled $5.19 bn, also a 1% decline.
“Throughout the year, we faced a very challenging global business environment that slowed earnings. Still, we improved performance in several food and financial businesses and significantly reduced costs companywide,” said Dave MacLennan, Cargill’s chairman and chief executive officer.
MacLennan said the company is focused on what it can best control: moving faster, raising efficiency, and creating innovative solutions for customers. “We want to accelerate growth in market segments where our expertise will help us create more value with our customers. Serving them inspires us to reach higher every day.”
Cargill’s cocoa and chocolate sector edged out last year’s fourth quarter as strong performance in Europe was partially trimmed by lower sales volume and higher operating costs in North America. Starches and sweeteners trailed the year-ago quarter as improved sales volume in North America was offset by higher energy and raw material costs in Europe. Though ahead for the year, edible oils had a softer fourth quarter.
As part of a strategy to grow in specialty ingredients, Cargill completed the acquisition of Belgian chocolate company Smet. In Brazil, Cargill is constructing a $150 million pectin plant in São Paulo state. Pectin is a versatile, citrus-based texturizer that has label-friendly applications in bakery, confectionery, dairy and fruit juices and jams. The new facility, which complements Cargill’s pectin production capacity in France, Germany and Italy, is slated to open in late 2021.
“We are proud of how far we’ve come in our 154-year-old history, and we know together we can achieve more,” MacLennan said. “With our partners, we are striving to push forward and redefine food systems for everyone’s benefit.”
Cargill’s 2019 annual report, Reach Higher, will debut Tuesday, July 30, on cargill.com.