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Suedzucker profits soar - but shares drop amid mango, ethanol fears

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Shares in Suedzucker tumbled despite the group, backed by a fillip from its ED&F Man stake, reporting better-than-expected results, as the sugar-to-fruit giant detailed clouds to its revival.

The German-based company, the European Union's largest sugar group, reported a jump in earnings to E66m for the September-to-November quarter, from E9m a year before.

The increase was helped by a E30m benefit from Suedzucker's investments in other companies - particularly in ED&F Man, the London-based commodities trader which booked a gain after a tender last year to raise its stake in Empresas Iansa to 92%, in a deal which valued Chilean sugar group's equity at $158.6m.

"At the time of the acquisition, the Chilean company's shares were trading at a historic low, below the corporation's net asset value," Suedzucker said.

"The gain on the acquisition was recognised as part of ED&F Man's" contribution to the Suedzucker accounts.

Shares tumble

However, even without that uplift, Suedzucker achieved an enhanced performance, with its operating profits jumping to E64m from E27m, and exceeding market forecasts of a E49m result.

The improvement reflected a return to the black at its CropEnergies, the bioethanol group which reported results separately on Tuesday, and profits growth of 43% to E53mat the special products segment.

Nonetheless, Suedzucker shares tumbled nearly 14% in early deals in Frankfurt before recovering some ground to stand at E14.75 in lunchtime deals, a drop of 11.1%.

'Crop failures'

While sticking by expectations of group operating profits rising to E200m-240m for the full financial year, to the end of next month, Suedzucker trimmed expectations for its fruit division, which is now expected to see a drop in profits rather than the flat performance guided to in November.

On the demand side, "macroeconomic and political problems are slowing market growth" in the former Soviet Union and Middle Eastern markets which have been the driver behind the division's expansion, the group said.

Meanwhile, fruit costs were raised by the hot European summer, which cut the quality and yields of the region's berries harvest, and by the strength of the dollar against the euro which, combined with "crop failures", boosted mango and pineapple prices.

"Further price increases are expected in the coming year, especially for these fruits," Suedzucker said.

'Significant volatilities'

The group also underlined the cautious outlook for ethanol prices outlined by CropEnergies on Tuesday, with Suedzucker saying that "it is uncertain" whether revived ethanol prices are sustainable "given lower futures prices".

"We continue to expect significant volatilities" in prices, the company added.

And in sugar, Suedzucker highlighted the setback to margins from beet costs which reached a floor in 2014, preventing them from reacting to lower sugar prices last year, and from a reduced sugar beet crop and processing campaign – expected to shorten by 29% to 90 days – which has in turn raised the impact of fixed costs.


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