U.S. agribusiness and trading firm Cargill Inc said on Tuesday quarterly earnings were essentially even with the same period a year ago, led by its food ingredients and applications business unit.
Minneapolis-based Cargill, one of the world's largest privately held corporations, reported $766 million in earnings from continuing operations for the fiscal third quarter ended Feb. 29, just ahead of $763 million a year earlier.
Revenue rose 5 percent to $31.9 billion.
"Cargill's earnings strengthened in the third quarter, totaling more than twice that earned in the first six months of the fiscal year," Cargill's chief executive Greg Page said in a statement. "Although it continues to be an unsettled year for the global economy, we did a better job navigating the uncertainty."
Third-quarter results represent a bounce back after Cargill's second quarter profits fell 88 percent to $100 million -- the worst quarterly performance since 2001, as earnings were hurt by investments made in equity markets and by distressed assets amid the European debt crisis.
The third-quarter rebound was led by Cargill's food segment. The food ingredient businesses posted the strongest results. Additionally, the company's global meat businesses improved from the second quarter. But profits overall from that business were still well below last year's record level due to a cyclical downturn in the North American beef segment, Cargill said.
The company's industrial unit earnings in the quarter were below a year before, hurt by sharply lower demand for deicing salt products given an exceptionally mild winter across North America.
Cargill, which operates in 65 countries, is a leading U.S. grain exporter, food processor, energy trader and biofuels producer. If Cargill were a publicly listed company, its 2011 sales of $119.5 billion would have ranked No. 13 on the Fortune 500 list of largest U.S. companies.