Bunge names acting CEO, forecasts drop in profits

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Ca-ssis
© GettyImages/Ca-ssis

Related tags: Bunge, financial returns

Acting CEO takes over at Bunge, but the US agribusiness giant expects lower than anticipated profits.

Several weeks after announcing​ that Soren Schroder would step down as CEO at Bunge Limited, the company has appointed Gregory Heckman as acting CEO. The move takes effect immediately.

There is no specific timetable established to complete the search for a new, permanent CEO, a company spokesperson told us.

However, a committee to find the company’s next CEO has been formed and seeks to achieve that “as soon as practicable,”​ following a “thorough and deliberate”​ process, said Bunge.

In addition to the announcement regarding the change in management for the global agro-giant, the White Plains-based company said that ongoing challenges stemming from trade uncertainty were lowering full-year total segment adjusted earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to below the anticipated range.

Previously, Bunge set a range outlook for its total segment adjusted earnings of about $1.2bn, an increase from the previous year. However, shortfalls in its agribusiness division along with its sugar and bioenergy units are anticipated to lower that return.

Bunge is to release its full year and Q4 results for 2018 on February 21.

Management changes

Bunge has seen several changes in management in the past several months.

Heckman, 56, took a seat on Bunge’s board in 2018. He has a history in the agriculture, food processing and energy industries.

Previously, he was the CEO of the Gavilon Group and acted as a senior executive at ConAgra Foods, the company said. He also is a founding partner of the private investment firm Flatwater Partners.

Additionally, Brain Zachman took over as the company’s president of global risk management last Monday [January 14]. He worked for Bunge from 1999 to 2012 filling several roles in the agribusiness segment.

In November, Robert Coviello was named the company’s new executive vice president and chief growth and strategy officer. He took office in January.

The head of Bunge’s agribusiness division, Brian Thomsen, said, in August, that he would be retiring at the end of the year.  

In addition to the new acting CEO, Bunge also announced changes to the membership of its board.

Current and long-time board members L Patrick Lupo, Ernest Bachrach and Enrique Boilini have said they will not be standing for re-election at the upcoming AGM of shareholders this year. All three are expected to remain on the board until their current terms expire in May.

Trade war and falling returns

Although the results are preliminary, the company anticipates that its total segment adjusted EBIT will be less than the $1.045bn established as the low-end of the outlook range for full-year results.

In addition, for the full-year results, there is anticipated to be a shortfall of $90-100m in adjusted EBIT for the company’s agribusiness segment. The full-year EBIT was forecast to be $800m to $1bn.

The sugar and bioenergy segment is also forecast to see a shortfall of $60-70m, the company added. Declines in EBIT for both company segments were compared to previously established ranges of return.

The shortfall in the agribusiness segment is linked to a reduction in Bunge’s  soybean inventory and lower ethanol prices in Brazil, the company said.

However, net debt for the company also was lowered from $7bn following the end of the third quarter to about $5bn.

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