Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's largest
agriculture processors, saw shares nearly double in 2006 as demand soared for
processed oilseeds and corn byproducts such as ethanol. But in the wake of
falling oil prices, the stock has declined, leaving investors to book gains of
about 31% for the year.
With crude oil prices eclipsing $78 per barrel this summer, investors poured
money into alternative energy stocks. A growing awareness of the dangers of
trans-fats - which were abandoned by some fast-food chains and banned in New
York City restaurants this year - also boosted demand for the company's
healthier cooking oils.
Against this backdrop, Archer Daniels Midland's
(ADM) earnings skyrocketed, more than doubling in its fiscal first quarter ended
Sept. 30 to easily beat Wall Street estimates.
In the first half of the
year, the stock surged close to 90%. But investor enthusiasm has waned in recent
months, mostly as oil prices continue to cool and drive down spot prices for
ethanol. Since the summer driving season ended, the price of crude has declined
to the $60/barrel range and shares of ADM have shed about 23% of their
In other key developments this year, the
company hired former Chevron executive Patricia Woertz as chief executive to succeed G.
Allen Andreas. The move was seen as affirming that its priorities lie in energy.
Her hiring also made ADM the largest publicly held company led by a female CEO,
ahead of Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo.
ADM said in July it plans to build a
biodiesel plant in Brazil to take advantage of that country's mandate that
diesel producers begin blending the alternative fuel with their products. The
plant, which will use soybean oil as its feedstock, is expected to start
production in 2007.
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