PLANTATIONS giant Wilmar International had a staggering $2.36 billion shaved off its market value on Wednesday following an unexpected 60.3 per cent drop in third-quarter profit.

The profit shrinkage to US$259.48 million (S$333.95 million) - which came despite a 23.3 per cent jump in revenues to US$7.76 billion - sent analysts scrambling to rush out reports expressing disappointment after their earlier glowing comments on its prospects proved illusory.

And traders lost no time in selling off the stock, which had climbed 15 per cent in the past six weeks. This knocked Wilmar's share price down 37 cents to $6.51 - a 5.5 per cent fall - on a heavy volume of 37.34 million shares.

Putting a positive spin on the company's latest financials, Wilmar's chairman and chief executive Kuok Khoon Hong said that 'despite the weak third-quarter performance, the group remains positive on its long-term prospects'.
The company will continue to leverage on its well-established presence in markets like China, India and Indonesia, and invest in existing and new businesses.

Among analysts, though, the big question is whether Wilmar's weak third-quarter performance is a one-off, or flags a potentially more serious problem. The consensus is that the firm's full-year earnings estimates may drop by about 10 per cent, as a result of the weaker quarter.

Wilmar drops in market value