Bunge (NYSE:BG) is an agribusiness and food company that is the largest producer of soybean oil and which has an immense stake in the South American fertilizer market. It also deals with commodities and works a great deal with Biofuels, especially Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol. In February of 2010, Bunge purchased five sugarcane mills in Brazil, making it the third largest sugar and ethanol producer in Brazil.
Bunge faces several risks as a result of the nature of its operations. Government Agricultural Subsidies, Environmental Regulations, weather conditions, and Health trends all play a roll in determining the success of the company.
Bunge earned a total of $41.9 billion in total revenues for 2009, a decline from its 2008 revenues of $52.6 billion. As a result, its net income declined dramatically as well, from $1.1 billion in 2008 to just $361 million in 2009. This decline was primarily a result of declines in demand and prices for key goods that Bunge supplies. Furthermore, tight credit conditions in Brazil limited the amount of fertilizers farmers could purchase, thereby driving down demand and prices for fertilizers, which are a commodity.
Bunge conducts its operations in three divisions: agribusiness, fertilizer and food and ingredients. These divisions include four reportable business segments: agribusiness, fertilizer, edible oil products and milling products.
The agribusiness division is an integrated business principally involved in the purchase, storage, transport, processing and sale of agricultural commodities and commodity products. These operations and assets are primarily located in North and South America, Europe and Asia. In 2009, this segment earned $30.5 billion in total sales.
The fertilizer division is involved in every step of the business, from mining phosphate-based raw materials to the final sale of retail fertilizer products. These operations are mostly located in South America. In 2009, this segment earned a total of $3.7 billion in total sales.
The food and ingredients division consists of two reportable business segments: edible oil products and milling products. These segments include businesses that produce and sell edible oils, shortenings, margarines, mayonnaise and milled products such as wheat flours and corn-based products. The operations and assets of our milling products segment are located in Brazil and the United States, and the operations and assets of our edible oil products segment are primarily located in North America, Europe, Brazil, China and India. In 2009, this segment earned a total of $7.7 billion.
Bunge seeks to generate fiscal value in conjunction with other companies, through both acquisitions and joint ventures. Problems with these companies could negatively affect the business and could divert the management’s attention from other matters. Likewise, success with these undertakings could be a boon to the company as it tries to compete with giants such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.
Large-scale agribusiness is vulnerable Temperature and Precipitation Fluctuations, and Agricultural Diseases. Because of the fluctuations in production quantities, it is very difficult to gauge capacity when building a new processing plant. Mistakes in calculations could lead to a surplus or a scarcity of commodity, both of which would negatively effect profitability until the imbalance has been corrected. These uncertainties make an investment in agribusiness inherently high-risk.
As an agricultural major with operations in over 80 countries, Bunge is at the mercy of international politics. Government Agricultural Subsidies and trade laws plague the agricultural industry, leaving Bunge subject to increased government interference, higher tariffs, tax regulation, political instability and trade barriers. Bunge is subject to a wide array of environmental laws. Bunge also faces laws effecting the labeling, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes.
Health concerns ranging from trans-fats to organic foods to Genetically Modified Foods constantly change the demand patterns of consumers. Genetically Modified Foods are currently a hot topic, especially in the European Union and Brazil where consumers oppose their usage. The delivery of GMF products to customers requesting GMF-free products could tarnish Bunge’s reputation and result in a loss of customers. Consumption of organic foods has been on the rise of late. Outbreaks of diseases such as Avian Flu and Mad Cow Disease in the poultry and livestock market lead to great losses for Bunge.
While Bunge competes with many different companies across each of its operating segments, it does not have a competitor with which it competes across all of its segments. Bunge’s primary competitor in the public sector is Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM), a slightly bigger and much more profitable business. In the private sector, both of these companies are dwarfed by Cargill the world’s second largest privately held business. As the graphs show, Cargill has a clear advantage in terms of revenue over both ADM and Bunge, but in the past two years, Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) has made a huge leap in net earnings while Bunge has failed to achieve the same.
Recently U.S. corn production has skyrocketed, eclipsing all estimates. Most of this increase has been due to Ethanol demand. This increased corn production has lowered Corn Prices and led to a decrease in the plantings of other crops such as soybeans and wheat. Unlike small agribusiness companies, larger companies such as Bunge and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) have invested overseas in Brazilian agriculture. This Brazilian presence has allowed them to produce the needed soybeans and import them into the US thereby giving them an advantage over companies who rely on the U.S. corn belt.
China has stated that it will not use food products to produce ethanol and some U.S. companies have taken the lead in researching cellulosic ethanol as an alternative to corn-produced ethanol. These companies would gain an advantage over ADM if they succeed.