Monsanto profit slips despite jump in seed sales

Thursday, April 2, 2009 | 12:19 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Monsanto Co., the world's biggest seed maker, said Thursday its fiscal second-quarter profit edged down 3.2 percent even as corn and soybean sales rose sharply.

The results appeared to handily beat analysts' estimates and its shares rose 4 percent in morning trading.

The St. Louis-based company earned $1.09 billion, or $1.97 per share, in the three months ended Feb. 28, down from $1.13 billion, or $2.02 per share, a year ago.

Monsanto says it earned $2.16 per share excluding one-time income taxes the company does not consider part of ongoing operations.

Thomson Reuters said analysts expected a loss of 3 cents a share.

Monsanto's revenue jumped 8.3 percent to a record $4.04 billion from $3.72 billion a year ago with a boost from sales of genetically engineered seed.

Its shares rose $3.26 to $85 in morning trading Thursday.

Monsanto bases its fiscal year on the agricultural calendar, and the second quarter is a time when U.S. farmers start placing their orders for the coming spring planting season. Analysts keep a close watch on Monsanto's seed orders as the company tries to steal market share from other biotech firms like Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Co. subsidiary.

Monsanto reported a 19 percent jump in corn seed sales for the quarter, and a 35 percent jump in soybean sales. Overall, revenue from genetic traits — which the company licenses out to other firms — and seed sales was up 20 percent.

Chief Executive Hugh Grant said the results show Monsanto is executing its strategy of boosting profits by developing new traits for staple crops like corn and soybeans amid a growing global demand for food and crop-based fuels.

"Through the first half of the year, we've done what we had committed to do: We've preserved value across the portfolio, which has allowed us to lift gross profit by 25 percent, margins by 5 percent, and ongoing earnings by 41 percent," Grant said in a statement.

In Jefferson City, state lawmakers said a proposed new tax credit could convince Monsanto to build a planned expansion in Missouri rather than out of state. The incentive is included in an economic development bill that stalled in the Missouri Senate. It would give companies a tax credit equal to a percentage of their research expenses.

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