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SINGAPORE, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Commodities trader Noble Group Ltd reported on Friday a 48 percent plunge in its 2013 net profit, which also fell short of market estimates, as its agriculture business swung to an operating loss.
A seven-fold rise in attributable loss from associates, mostly from an investment in Yancoal Australia, also hurt Noble's 2013 net profit that came in at $243.5 million.
This was below the consensus for a net profit of $311.0 million, according to Thomson Reuters SmartEstimate.
Noble did not provide details on fourth-quarter profit. In November, the company had reported a net profit for the first nine months of the year at $127 million.
The agriculture business performed the best in the quarter, as its operating income more than doubled on the year, but it failed to prevent the full-year results for the segment from swinging into an $83 million loss as sugar crushing throughput in Brazil fell short of expectations due to heavy rain.
The company noted an improvement in crush margins in China in the second half of 2013, and lower margins in Argentina.
Noble expects its four new production facilities, including three for oilseeds crushing and a refinery, commissioned in 2013 to start contributing to the company's performance in 2014.
The metals, minerals and ores business recorded a 57 percent jump in operating income from supply chains and improvement in operating income margin in the fourth quarter, but reported a 6 percent drop for the year.
Noble, which counts China's sovereign wealth fund - China Investment Corp - as one of its key stake holders, has been growing its metals, minerals and ores business aggressively in recent years. The segment's revenue for 2013 jumped 17 percent, extending a 35-percent rise in 2012.
"Physical premia in both alumina and aluminium presented attractive opportunities for the segment and these opportunities were augmented by a long term offtake agreement involving the Jamaican government for alumina," Noble commented on the segment's full-year performance, adding that the company entered the bauxite market for the first time in 2013.
The energy division recorded a 5 percent gain in both operating income and revenue for the fourth quarter. (Reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Himani Sarkar)