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Monsanto posts fourth-quarter loss

Thursday, October 11, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- Seed company Monsanto Co. posted a wider loss Wednesday for its fiscal fourth quarter, weighed down by charges related to its acquisition of cotton company Delta and Pine Land Co.

Monsanto reported a loss of $210 million, or 39 cents per share, versus a loss of $144 million, or 27 cents per share, in the prior year.

Quarterly net sales rose nearly 13 percent to $1.57 billion from $1.39 billion in the prior-year period.

Excluding a $186 million research and development charge related to Delta and Pine Land, as well as the results of discontinued operations, the loss for the latest quarter was 18 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial predicted a loss of 17 cents per share on sales of $1.66 billion. The earnings estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Monsanto attributed the sales increase to a strong corn seed and traits season in the United States as well as higher sales of corn seed in Argentina and Brazil.

Monsanto chairman and chief executive officer Hugh Grant said the year was a benchmark for the company, as more of the world's farmers purchased Monsanto products.

Grant said Monsanto realized record sales for a fourth consecutive year. It also made several strategic acquisitions and approved its largest dividend increase ever.

As the company looks ahead to 2008, he said Monsanto is focused on market share rather than the absolute number of acres planted with its seeds.

Grant said as the world gets warmer, genes engineered to withstand drought will become more important.

Analyst Kevin McCarthy with Bank of America Equity Research said Monsanto's overall sales growth of 13 percent met his forecast but with a more favorable mix.

He said strong early sales of corn seeds in Brazil and Argentina and better than expected Roundup pricing accounted for "superior sales."

He maintained his "neutral" rating on the company's stock, citing an improving market in Brazil against threats of increasing competition from DuPont Co. and Syngenta SA.


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