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Cargill pays record dividend to family owners after profits boom

July 31, 2020 Updated Fri., July 31, 2020 at 8:06 p.m.

This photo from Oct. 16, 2017, shows baby turkeys at a farm Waco, Texas. The farm is involved in a pilot project by Cargill's Honeysuckle White brand. Cargill Inc. paid its family owners a record dividend in its 2020 fiscal year after profit surged on the back of volatile agricultural markets.  (Associated Press)
This photo from Oct. 16, 2017, shows baby turkeys at a farm Waco, Texas. The farm is involved in a pilot project by Cargill's Honeysuckle White brand. Cargill Inc. paid its family owners a record dividend in its 2020 fiscal year after profit surged on the back of volatile agricultural markets. (Associated Press)
By Javier Blas Bloomberg

Cargill Inc., the top privately owned company in America, paid its family owners a record dividend in its 2020 fiscal year after profit surged on the back of volatile agricultural markets.

The company reported net income of $3 billion in its fiscal year through May, up 17% from the previous year and its fourth-highest ever, according to audited accounts reviewed by Bloomberg News. Cargill, the world’s largest agricultural commodity trader, broke with a two-decade tradition earlier this year and stopped releasing its results publicly. Still, the company shares financial results with its bankers and others.

Alongside its peers, Cargill has been able to make money from volatile markets buffeted by the impact of the U.S.-China trade war and the coronavirus pandemic, plus profit from its long-term bet on animal protein, including beef packaging, fish and poultry.

With some 155,000 employees across 70 countries, Cargill is the “C” in the vaunted ABCDs of the agriculture world, for the initials of Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and Louis Dreyfus Co., that have dominated grain trading for centuries.

As profits soared, the 125 family members that control Cargill Inc. got the biggest payout ever, with dividends to stockholders surging to $1.13 billion, up 76% from $643 million the previous year.

The accounts show the company declared a “special dividend” in 2019. It’s unclear whether the increased payment in fiscal year 2020 is linked to that special dividend.

A Cargill spokesperson referred back to a statement issued earlier in July in which the company only disclosed its revenue data, which matched the sales data contained in the accounts seen by Bloomberg News.

Cargill, which last year counted 14 billionaires among its ruling circle in one of the largest concentrations of wealth in any family-controlled business, is owned by the heirs of William Wallace Cargill, who founded the company more than 150 years ago.

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