By Ana Mano
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Shares in Brazilian food giant JBS SA fell more than 10% in early trade on Friday after the company posted a wider-than-expected first quarter loss, marking the first time the firm has faced difficulties in all countries where it operates.
In a conference call with analysts, Global CEO Gilberto Tomazoni sought to reassure investors, saying the results don’t reflect what management sees for the business going forward despite a tough outlook for its beef and pork business in the United States, where it gets most of its revenues.
One of the units Tomazoni sees recovering faster is Brazil’s Seara, citing operating adjustments and lower corn prices as likely improving margins for the processed food division in the short term.
Brazil’s beef operations will also quickly benefit from the end of an export ban affecting shipments to China, he added.
Last quarter, margins of JBS’s U.S. beef business were eroded by tight cattle supplies, which increased the price of livestock.
According to Wesley Batista Filho, who recently took on the role of CEO of JBS USA, U.S. beef margins will stay “in the low single digits” until the beginning of 2024 because of low cattle availability.
However, as the industry reduces slaughtering of female cows, cattle inventories may begin to improve this year, he noted.
Goldman Sachs analyst Thiago Bortoluci said management tried to show optimism after a difficult quarter, highlighting the imminent grilling season in the U.S. and lower grain costs for Seara.
“But, with the weak results … and the downward revision to [competitor] Tyson’s guidance this week, we believe the short-term risk-reward might be skewed to the downside,” Goldman Sachs said.
JBS’s Seara processed foods division is already benefiting from lower corn prices, Tomazoni said, citing a drop in the price of a corn bag to below 60 reais ($11.99) for the first time in three years.
On a more global note, Tomazoni said Asian demand for beef should rise as per capita consumption remains low in the region.
JBS exports to China using plants in Brazil and in the U.S. and is well positioned to cater to that demand, he said.
($1 = 5.0033 reais)
(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Steven Grattan and Mark Potter)