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Olam's half year earnings rise 19% in difficult trading

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Global agricultural trader Olam International has reported significant increases in volumes handled, revenues and earnings from the first six months of 2017, despite what it terms "difficult trading in the agri complex".

The business has recently agreed credit facilities in a number of regions and is confident that its restructuring program over the past couple of years has increased its resilience.

The Singapore-registered company handled a total 8.94 billion tonnes of commodities in January to June 2017, a 38.7% increase on the 6.45bn tonnes in the same period of 2016.

The Edible Nuts segment saw a 42.4% increase in earnings across the cashews, peanuts, almonds and sesame commodities. The company acquired additional peanut shelling capacity earlier this year.

Coffee drives earnings growth

Earnings were up 5.5% within the confectionery and beverages division, driven by coffee - Olam has invested in further plantations as well as its soluble coffee processing in Spain and Vietnam. However, cocoa earnings fell as lower commodity prices affected margins.

The Food Staples division saw a 31.5% lift in earnings with Olam's grains, rice, dairy and edible oils interests all contributing to the growth.

Group EBITA was 19.1% higher at SG$722.3 million (SG$648.4m) and revenues up 26.5% to SG$12.32bn from SG$9.74bn in the same period of the prior year.

"Our strong Q2 performance on top of a solid Q1 has delivered significantly improved first-half results," noted OLAM co-founder and chief executive Sunny Verghese. "Our Food Category segments in particular lifted overall performance in Q2.

Resilient business model

"This reflects the continued execution of our strategic plan and our disciplined focus on capital management. We are confident that our business model will remain resilient and our balanced approach to pursuing current and future growth will serve us well."

July saw the business agree credit facilities in US dollars, euros and Japanese yen.

Looking ahead, Olam said it expects "macro-economic uncertainties to continue through the year, but believes its diversified and well-balanced portfolio provides a resilient platform to navigate the challenges in both the global economy and commodity markets.

"Olam will continue to execute on its strategic plan and pursue growth in its prioritised platforms. It remains focused on turning around underperforming businesses, ensuring gestating businesses reach full potential and delivering positive free cash flow," it concluded. Share prices reached £2.000 from the opening £1.960, but closed at $1.980.

By Jamie Day

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