Monsanto beats expectations on strong corn, soy demand

Reuters — Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Wednesday as its corn and soybean businesses expanded globally.

The company, which specializes in developing genetically engineered crops that withstand herbicides and ward off insects, also affirmed its fiscal-year forecast.

“Our business is on track to deliver the growth we anticipated,” Monsanto chairman Hugh Grant said on a conference call.

Monsanto said it had earned $1.67 billion, or $3.15 a share, in the second quarter ended Feb. 28, up 13 per cent from $1.48 billion, or $2.74 a share, a year earlier (all figures US$). Analysts on average were expecting $3.07 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales rose to $5.8 billion from $5.5 billion, in line with analysts’ expectations.

Corn remains king in terms of growth, the company said. Profit margins expanded 2.5 points in the second quarter for that business, which Monsanto said was on track to post record volume for the fiscal year despite a decline in planted acres expected in North and South America.

The company’s corn portfolio is expanding globally, helping sales of corn seed and traits rise four per cent to $3.4 billion in the quarter. Monsanto officials said Wednesday they saw a $1 billion net sales growth opportunity in corn in the next five years due to global demand.

Also strong, sales of soybean seeds and traits rose 21 per cent to a record $820 million. Monsanto is undertaking its largest-ever soybean product launch now, rolling out offerings in Latin America that combine tolerance to glyphosate herbicide, protection against caterpillars and yield improvement. The company also sees a $1 billion net sales growth opportunity across five years for soy, officials said.

Sales of vegetable seeds rose 10 per cent to $219 million, while sales of cotton fell 18 per cent to $49 million.

Overall, sales in Monsanto’s seeds and genomics segment totaled $4.6 billion in the quarter, up almost seven per cent from a year earlier. The company’s agricultural productivity segment, which includes the Roundup herbicide business, contributed $1.2 billion, up from $1.1 billion.

The company said it still expected full-year earnings per share of $5.00 to $5.20 on an ongoing basis and $5.02 to $5.22 on a net basis.

— Carey Gillam is a Reuters correspondent covering agriculture and agribusiness from Kansas City.

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