Chris Johnson, a credit analyst for ratings agency Standard and Poor's, said Cargill was in a "cyclical trough".
"Some of that has been driven by their merchandising activities in certain commodities, some of that has been driven by ocean freight industry conditions and some of it has been driven by some of their more core businesses, most particularly beef and a weak sobyean crushing environment in North America," he said in an interview.
Johnson said he had expected weak first-quarter earnings to persist in the second quarter, noting that Tuesday's news had not prompted S&P to change its rating of Cargill "as of yet". The company continues to have strong liquidity and its recent acquisitions should improve cash flow, he said.
"Our ratings to a certain degree for all agribusiness companies incorporate a degree of cyclicality and we recognize that Cargill is currently in a cyclical trough in addition to having suffered some other losses related to some weak cotton merchandising environment in the first quarter," Johnson added.
Results fell in all five basic business units for the quarter.
Cargill's food ingredients and agriculture services businesses had the strongest results. Its food ingredient business nearly matched year-ago record performance but Cargill's meat unit was hurt by a smaller U.S. fed cattle supply, which pressured beef margins.
Cargill's $2 billion acquisition of Provimi, a leading global animal nutrition company, was its largest in recent months and completed in November.
(Reporting by Christine Stebbins; Editing by Derek Caney, Bob Burgdorfer and Dale Hudson)