Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) lost $103 million in its fiscal fourth quarter, pushed into the red by a hefty legal settlement. Its operating results were short of Wall Street's expectations.

The loss reportd Friday for the April-through-June quarter amounted to 16 cents a share, compared with earnings of $95 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier.

Results from the quarter were dominated by a $252 million after-tax charge related to the settlement of fructose (search) litigation. Excluding that and other one-time items, operating earnings were 23 cents a share — a penny shy of the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues were $9.7 billion, up 20 percent from $8 billion a year earlier and some $1.2 billion better than analysts' estimate.

ADM said its oilseed processing unit had a $15 million operating loss for the quarter, blaming Chinese contract defaults that had a significant impact on global oilseed markets.

Corn processing operating earnings rose to $150 million, boosted by increased volumes and selling prices of alcohol and lysine products that more than offset higher net corn costs. But the higher corn costs pushed earnings from its sweetener and starch products business lower.

CEO G. Allen Andreas said the legal settlement took care of the company's remaining significant litigation exposures. He said the fiscal year was "characterized by extreme volatility and difficult business conditions for global agribusiness," but he noted that ADM still posted record operating profits of $1.56 billion during the 12 months.

Net earnings for the fiscal year were $494.7 million, or 76 cents a share, compared with $451.1 million, or 70 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenues were $36.2 billion, up 18 percent from $30.7 billion in fiscal 2003.

ADM is one of the world's largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa and also produces soy meal and oil, ethanol, corn sweeteners and flour, with more than 260 processing plants worldwide.

Shares in the company fell 30 cents to $15.75 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).