Monsanto's profit jumped 42 percent in 3rd quarter

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | 6:34 p.m. CDT; updated 2:01 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Monsanto Co.’s profit soared 42 percent in its third quarter on strong performance by Roundup herbicide and by its seeds and traits business. The company also boosted its earnings projections for the year.

But its shares fell more than 4 percent in morning trading as its revenue for the quarter came in below expectations. On the day, its shares fell $4.27, or 3.1 percent, to $131.52. That’s still nearer the high end of their 52-week range of $58.50 to $145.80.

The St. Louis-based company said Wednesday that it earned $811 million, or $1.45 per share in the three months ended May 31, up from earnings of $570 million, or $1.02 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Sales rose 26 percent to $3.59 billion, up from $2.84 billion.

Monsanto cited increased sales of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides globally; increased revenue from soybean, corn and cotton seed and traits revenue in the U.S.; and higher corn seed revenues in Europe and Africa.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial projected earnings of $1.34 per share on higher revenue of $3.71 billion.

Monsanto now expects net income of $3.40 per share, excluding discontinued operations and one-time charges, and $3.63 per share overall. The company previously projected overall full-year earnings would be $3.38 to $3.48 per share.

For the first nine months of the fiscal year, Monsanto earned $2.2 billion, or $3.93 per share, up from $1.2 billion, or $2.18 per share, a year earlier. Nine-month sales were $9.47 billion, up 35 percent from $6.99 billion.

Earnings per share results for the first nine months were affected favorably by 23 cents per share after tax from the settlement of Monsanto’s claim related to the emergence from bankruptcy of Solutia, the chemical maker that spun off from Monsanto in 1997.

Hugh Grant, president and chief executive officer, called the nine-month performance “remarkable.”

“This strong growth sets up a solid foundation for our business to reach our target of more than doubling gross profit in 2012,” Grant said in a statement. “Because we’re both discovering and delivering innovative tools that can help increase productivity on the farm, we offer an attractive solution to the farmer and their mission of meeting our world’s growing food, feed and fuel needs.”

Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles said the DeKalb brand of corn seed products could see 2 to 3 percentage point share growth once final returns are in. The American Seeds Inc. brands could see percentage growth of 1 to 2 percent. And in Argentina, Monsanto’s brand increased 5 percentage points.

Monsanto said its fourth quarter is largely influenced by its global cotton business and Roundup business in the U.S. The company typically records a loss in the fourth quarter.

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