Smithfield Foods seized a last chance to take a swipe at shareholders who had pressed for the group's break-up even as the pork producer, being acquired by China's Shuanghui International, unveiled "disappointing" results.
The top US pork group, in what may be its last results announcement before its $7bn takeover by Shuanghui, reported a 36% drop to $39.5m in earnings for the three months to July 28, despite a rise of 9.8% to $3.39bn in revenues.
The fall in profits "difficult" operating environment in the fresh pork division, which extended losses to $36.5m, from $12.0m a year before.
While the quarter is typically weak for the business, the trend this year was exacerbated by "declines in key [pork] export markets, namely Japan, as well as China and Russia", at a time of firm hog prices, Larry Pope, the Smithfield chief executive, said.
US pork exports, at 1.30m tonnes, are down 5.5% in the first seven months of 2013, with those to Russia, which has imposed curbs on US exports over concerns of the ractopamine growth promoting drug, tumbling 77%, industry data on Thursday showed.
However, Mr Pope added that the dent to the group's profits would have been even bigger had it not been able to exploit, through possessing hog production operations, higher livestock prices.
"The company's integrated business helped lessen the adverse impact of weakness in other segments," he said.
"Our hog production earnings nearly tripled from last year on higher hog prices," reaching $66.5m, as margins rose to $17 per head from $6 a year before.
Prices for live hog were, at $71 per head, up $5 a head year on year, outpacing $1 growth to $68 per head in rearing costs.
Smithfield had, ahead of its Shuanghui deal, come under pressure from top shareholder Continental Grain to ditch its hog-rearing operations.
Continental claimed that "average industry profitability has been negative in the last five years and only marginally profitable over last 20 years".
However, the recovery in corn and soymeal prices over the past month has revived concerns over hog margins, with Purdue University farm economist Chris Hurt warning last week that the outlook for hog producers had turned "less optimistic".
"Just when it looked like hog production was headed safely back to profitability in 2014, hot and dry weather late in the growing season has threatened the bright outlook," he said, although forecasting that producers still stood to make slim profits of a little under $10 per head over the next year.
Mr Pope added that the "key driver" of the group was its packaged meats division, despite a 25% drop to $97.9m in the unit's operating profits, reflecting higher pig prices.
Operating margins, at 7%, were "solid", if below the 10% achieved a year before.
The group would continue its plans for focusing on its consumer brands, such as Armur, Curly's and Carando, which offer the potential for higher margins, he said.
The latest quarter, the first of the group's financial year, "should make the low point of the year for Smithfield".