SINGAPORE (Feb 20): Wilmar International, Asia’s leading agribusiness group, reported earnings of US$438.4 million ($613.7 million) for 4QFY0219 ended December, a 120% increase from earnings of US$199.4 million a year ago. 

As a result, the group’s full-year earnings was lifted to US$1.3 billion, some 15% higher than US$1.1 billion in FY2018. 

Wilmar says that the improved earnings was attributable to strong performances from Tropical Oils and Oilseeds & Grains segment, as well as the absence of impairment loss from the Sugar segment. 

These improvements were, however, partially offset by lower contributions from the group’s associates and joint ventures, which booked declines 49% and 27% respectively mainly primarily to weaker performances from the group’s investments in China, Africa and Vietnam. 

Revenue for the quarter inched up by a marginal 0.5% to US$11.3 billion from US$11.2 billion in 4QFY2018, on the back of increased consumer products sales and sugar merchandising activities. This increase was partially mitigated by lower commodity prices during the quarter. 

Under the fourth quarter in review, the group’s Tropical Oils and Oilseeds and Grains segments reported y-o-y increases in pre-tax  profits of 114% and 61% respectively, while the Sugar segment saw its losses narrow to US$9.7 million from US$116.8 million in the previous year. Pre-tax profit contributions from the Others segment more than trebled to US$53.0 million from US$17.5 million last year. 

Cost of sales dipped 1.3% to US$10.0 billion from US$10.1 billion last year as a result of higher consumer products sales and sugar merchandising activities. 

Consequently, gross profit for the quarter saw a 17.9% increase to US$1.3 billion from US$1.1 billion a year ago. 

As at end-December, cash and cash equivalents stood at US$2.05 billion. 

Earnings per share for the quarter came in at 6.9 cents. 

The board has also proposed a final tax exempt one-tier dividend of 9.5 cents per share. 

Including the interim dividend of 3 cents per share paid in August 2019, the total dividend paid and proposed for FY2019 comes in at 12.5 cents per share, representing the highest cash dividend declared by the group since listing. The dividend is expected to be paid out on May 15. 

In the group's outlook statement, Wilmar CEO Kuok Khoon Hong says that he does not expect any major impact to the group's businesses from the Covid-19 outbreak which has brought volatility to the commodity markets and further challenges to its operating environment. Nevertheless, Kuok is bracing himself for a greater impact should the outbreak be a prolonged one. 

The group also says that the listing of its China business, Yihai Kerry Arawana Holdings (YKA), is progressing without any significant issues encountered to date. The group had hoped to receive regulatory approval early this year. 

“We expect the listing  to be approved this year even though it may be slightly delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak. We would like to emphasize that as work on the proposed listing is still in progress, shareholders are advised to exercise caution in trading their shares in the company,” says Kuok. 

“There is no certainty or assurance as at the date of this announcement that the listing proposal will be carried out,” adds Kuok. 

Shares in Wilmar International closed two cents lower, or 0.5% down, at $4.04 on Thursday prior to the results announcement.