Fonterra first-quarter profit jumps 84% ​​on strong protein, cheese margins

Fonterra is benefiting from strong margins in its protein and cheese products.

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Fonterra is benefiting from strong margins in its protein and cheese products.

Fonterra’s first-quarter profit jumped 84% as it benefits from strong margins in its protein and cheese products.

The country’s largest dairy processor said normalized after-tax profit increased to $214 million in the three months to October 31, from $116m last year. Sales rose 32% to $5.79 billion.

Under chief executive Miles Hurrell’s leadershipFonterra has been selling overseas assets, pulling the co-operative’s focus back to New Zealand where he is looking to eke out more value from the milk produced by its 9,000 farmer shareholders.

Hurrell said Fonterra was making good progress and the long-term outlook for dairy remained strong.

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Fonterra raised its forecast for full-year earnings to 50-70 cents per share from 45-60cps.

“It’s a very strong upgrade to guidance,” said Jeremy Sullivan, an investment adviser at Hamilton Hindin Greene. “They’re making progress and it’s obviously flowing through into a very strong operational performance for the first quarter.”

STUFF

The co-operative is selling overseas assets to focus on getting more value from NZ milk.

In the latest quarter, Fonterra’s ingredients business benefited from favorable margins in its protein portfolio, particularly for casein and caseinate products used in medical nutrition, and whey protein concentrate used in products such as high protein beverages.

“The sustained strong margins in our protein portfolio give us the confidence to upgrade our earnings guidance, although the wider range reflects the volatility in the market which we expect to continue in the short to medium term,” Hurrell said.

“If these conditions continue for a further extended period, it could have an additional positive impact on forecast earnings.”

Units in the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund, which gives investors outside the co-operative access to its dividends, jumped 4.3% to $3.13 in midday trading on the NZX on Thursday.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell wants to get more value for milk produced by its New Zealand farmer suppliers.

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Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell wants to get more value for milk produced by its New Zealand farmer suppliers.

The co-operative’s foodservice business improved relative to the same period last year, but the high milk price put significant pressure on margins in both its foodservice and consumer divisions, Hurrell said.

While higher milk prices are beneficial for farmers, they can squeeze profit margins for milk processors like Fonterra unless they can sell their products at higher prices as well.

The group’s profit margin increased to 16.3% from 15.1% due to strong product prices, partially offset by higher milk prices for farmers.

The cooperative lowered and narrowed its farmgate milk price forecast for the 2022/23 season to $8.50 to $9.50 per kilogram of milk solids, from its previous forecast of $8.50 to $10 per kgMS. That suggests a payment of $9 per kgMS for the season, down from last season’s record $9.30 per kgMS payment.

“Global market volatility has prompted some softening of demand for whole milk powder, particularly in Greater China and this is reflected in our forecast farmgate milk price range,” Hurrell said.

“We continue to feel the impact of geopolitical and macroeconomic events, with higher costs at every point in our supply chain,” he said. “It’s a similar story behind the farm gate with our farmer shareholders managing significantly higher input costs.”

In the first quarter, Fonterra’s operating expenses increased by 13% to $581m.

Hurrell noted global milk supply from key exporting regions had fallen over the past year, to 268 billion liters in the year to September, from 271 billion liters the previous year.

In New Zealand, milk supply so far this season was down 2.9% compared to the same point last season.

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