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April 30 (Reuters) - Bunge Ltd, one of the world's largest agricultural trading houses, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by strong margins from soybean crushing and oilseed exports.
The company also said oilseed processing margins improved in Brazil and Argentina in the first quarter and should remain good through September.
Oilseed processing is part of Bunge's agribusiness, which brought in 73 percent of sales in the quarter ended March 31.
Chief Executive Soren Schroder said soybean harvests in South America were historically large and farmers in Northern Hemisphere were expected to plant large crops, which should drive high asset utilization later in the year.
Large harvests have provided good opportunities for agricultural traders to make money out of their bread-and-butter business of transporting, storing and selling grain.
Last month, Goldman Sachs raised its rating on Bunge to "buy", citing the best macro environment for the company in years.
Bunge reported net profit available to shareholders of $249 million, or $1.67 a share, for the first quarter, compared with a loss of $27 million, or 18 cents, a year earlier.
Excluding items, it earned $1.58 per share, above analysts' average estimate of $1.14, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net sales dropped 19.7 percent to $10.81 billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $13.16 billion. (Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)