(Adds drop in stock price, comments from conference call)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Bunge Ltd expects a challenging year in 2016 due to slumping U.S. farm exports and processing margins, Chief Executive Officer Soren Schroder said on Thursday, as the global grain trader reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit.
Shares sank 14 percent in morning trading to their lowest levels since 2010.
Bunge came under pressure after the company joined Archer Daniels Midland Co and Cargill Inc in detailing the pain from sluggish U.S. exports. Both rivals recently reported weak results.
Demand for U.S. grain has declined as strength in the U.S. dollar and massive global supplies have increased competition for business from South America and other parts of the world. U.S. farmers have put crops into storage, rather than selling them to trading houses, as they wait for prices to recover from low levels.
The United States “is a big challenge for the next couple of quarters,” Schroder told analysts on a conference call.
Instead, Bunge will be banking on profits from exports and processing operations in South America to benefit the company.
Bunge is a major player in Brazil and Argentina, which increased grain shipments after new President Mauricio Macri eliminated taxes on corn, wheat and soy exports.
“Northern Hemisphere oilseed processing margins and grain exports will be pressured until markets adjust to the increased level of global supplies,” Schroder said.
Historically, large crops have benefited agricultural traders and processors by providing more grain for them to transport, store and sell. However, Bunge said slow selling by farmers and the weak export demand hurt its U.S. operations.
Agribusiness, the company’s largest unit, will probably “start the year slow,” with results weighted toward the second half of the year, said Drew Burke, chief financial officer.
Fourth-quarter net income available to shareholders was $188 million, or $1.30 per share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $62 million, or 43 cents per share.
Excluding discontinued operations and other charges, earnings rose to $1.49 per share from $1.12. Analysts on average expected $1.56, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue dropped to $11.13 billion from $13.23 billion.
Last week, ADM reported a lower quarterly profit and cautioned that tough market conditions could persist in the year ahead. Cargill last month said earnings and revenue were down for the quarter ended Nov. 30.
Bunge’s stock price was down 36 percent from a year ago prior to Thursday’s slide. ADM shares had lost 30 percent over that same period. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Meredith Mazzilli)