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Profits leap sends JBS shares to record high

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Shares in JBS touched a record high after the Brazilian beef giant unveiled a 20-fold rise in earnings, helped by growth overseas, and currency hedging which protected the group company from eye-watering depreciation in the Brazilian real.

Shares in JBS, the world's largest beef company, hit R$17.23 in early deals in Sao Paulo, the highest since the group floated in 2007.

The rise followed the release of results showing that the group's earnings soared to R$1.39bn in the January-to-March period, up from R$70.0m a year before, on a 28.0% rise to 33.819bn in revenues.

The growth reflected the fruits of a world expansion drive, said Wesley Batista, the JBS chief executive – a strategy which has at times landed the group in hot water with investors for high gearing rates.

'One of the best equity hedges'

"Our strategy over the last years allowed us to create a global production platform," said Mr Batista.

"Today, we operate a diversified portfolio, with value-added products and strong brands worldwide

"This strategy allows us to generate more solid and consistent results ongoing."

The assessment was backed by analysts at Brazilian bank Bradesco who termed JBS "one of the best equity hedges against the Brazilian real depreciation" despite the group's run-up of dollar debt to fund its acquisition spree.

Bradesco highlighted that JBS not has 85% of revenues in dollars, and hedges 100% of its balance sheet exposure to the strengthening dollar via derivatives.

In the January-to-March period, JBS gained "R$4.5bn in derivatives (cash) that offset the currency market impact of R$3.8bn (non-cash) in its dollar-denominated debt," the bank noted.

'Flexibility and agility'

JBS revealed a drop of 37% to R$376.4m in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) at its Brazilian beef division, which was undermined by the squeeze on margins from elevated cattle prices identified by rival Marfrig last week.

However, the JBS Foods division saw ebita grow by 62% to R$616.0m, heled by strong poultry sales on domestic and export markets.

And all three of the group's US-based divisions reported increasing ebitda, including the beef business, which swung to a profit of $186.6m, from a $22.5m loss the year before.

The group said that a decentralisation of its fed cattle and regional arms within the US beef division had allowed for "more flexibility and agility" in decision-making, and "faster adjustments to conditions" in what proved volatile markets.

Market reaction

The results were termed "solid" by broker Fator Corretora, which also highlighted the strength of the JBS balance sheet.

"The company was able to pay for recent acquisitions without significantly harming its leverage, demonstrating assertiveness in JBS's strategy of acquiring companies and financing expansions with own resources," Fator said.

However, the broker reduced to "equal weight" its rating on JBS shares, following their surge of 50% already in 2015.

The shares stood at R$16.69 in afternoon deals, up 0.5% on the day.


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