The Andersons Off by a Nickel

Second-quarter earnings slipped at The Andersons ( ANDE), driving shares sharply lower early Friday.

For the second quarter ended June 30, the Maumee, Ohio, grain processor made $10.3 million, or 66 cents a share, down from the year-ago $10.4 million, or 67 cents a share. Revenue rose to $378 million from $365 million a year earlier, driven by 55% growth in the rail segment.

The two-analyst Thomson Financial survey was calling for a 71-cent latest-quarter profit.

Grain & Ethanol revenue rose 12% from a year ago to $149 million, as the number of bushels handled by the group's elevators and average gross sales margins rose. Results include the impact of employee recruiting, training and some other preopening expenses associated with the ethanol business.

Rail Group revenue rose to $28 million from $18 million a year earlier, as fleet use hit 95% in June. Operating income from the group's railcar repair and manufacturing businesses was also higher in the second quarter.

Plant Nutrient revenue slipped 6% to $113 million, as higher energy and nutrient input costs caused farmers to cut the amount of nutrients applied to their fields this year. Turf revenue fell 17% to $33 million, a year after the company refocused its lawn unit.

Despite the setback, CEO Mike Anderson said full-year earnings are looking stronger than expected.

"While there is still a lot of time left in the growing season, and several other things such as the ethanol plant launch, have to be executed well, it now appears that a range of $1.90 to $2.10 for our full-year earnings per share is a reasonable expectation," said Anderson. "These per-share estimates do not take into account the pending issuance of additional shares pursuant to our announced stock offering, which is not yet final. We will, of course, continue to evaluate our earnings projections as we progress through the year."

Anderson said in May that the company would make $1.70 to $1.90 for the year. Thomson's two analysts were looking for $2.04.

Anderson explains: "We're about to begin production of ethanol at the new plant in Albion, Mich., ahead of schedule, and ethanol economics are stronger now than our earlier projections envisioned. In addition, the prospects for an excellent grain harvest in our region are even better now than we thought earlier, we continue to achieve growth in our rail business, our turf and specialty business is performing better than anticipated, and our investment in Lansing Trade Group is doing very well. Our estimate of the business interruption insurance settlement related to the accident at one of our elevators last year is also higher now that more specific data is available."

Shares of The Andersons, after posting a 5% jump Thursday in anticipation of Friday's report, plunged $2.36 early Friday to $36.20.

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