(Updates with comment from analyst in fourth paragraph.)
Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, reported fiscal first-quarter earnings that topped analysts’ estimates on rising sales of engineered soybean seeds and Roundup herbicide.
Net income in the three months through November increased to $368 million, or 69 cents a share, from $339 million, or 63 cents, a year earlier, Monsanto said today in a statement. Profit excluding a discontinued business was 67 cents, beating the 64-cent average estimate. Revenue rose 6.9 percent to $3.14 billion, topping the $3.07 billion average estimate.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant is focused on selling more genetically modified seeds in Latin America to drive earnings growth outside the core U.S. market. Sales of soybean seeds and genetic licenses climbed 16 percent on sales in Brazil and Argentina, and revenue in the unit that makes glyphosate weed killer, sold as Roundup, rose 24 percent.
"Glyphosate really crushed it," Chris Shaw, a New York- based analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. who recommends buying the shares, said by phone today. "Overall, it was a pretty decent quarter."
Profit in the fiscal year that began Sept. 1 will be $5 to $5.20 a share, St. Louis-based Monsanto said, repeating an Oct. 2 forecast. The average of 16 estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for per-share profit of $5.26.
Gross profit from soybeans climbed 42 percent as farmers in Latin America bought pricier seeds with more genetic modifications to combat weeds and bugs, Monsanto said. Farmers in the region are planting more land with soybeans to take advantage of higher crop prices relative to corn, Shaw said.
Monsanto rose 0.4 percent in premarket trading to $113.30 at 9:12 a.m. in New York. The shares gained 23 percent last year.
Gross profit in the seed unit fell 2 percent as gains in soybeans and vegetable seeds weren’t enough to make up for declining sales of corn seed and cotton seed, Monsanto said. Farmers in Latin America are expected to plant less corn in the current growing season and U.S. farmers aren’t making early purchases like they did last year, Monsanto said.
Gross profit in the agricultural-productivity unit, which makes Roundup herbicide, the world’s top-selling weed killer, surged 50 percent, Monsanto said. Gains were helped by 8 percent higher retail prices for generic glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, Shaw said.
"Pricing has been going up steadily, and it’s a bigger volume quarter" for glyphosate, he said.
Excluded from adjusted earnings are payments from the Posilac bovine growth hormone business that was sold to Eli Lilly & Co. in 2008, Sara Miller, a Monsanto spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
(Monsanto executives will discuss results and its product pipeline on a conference call starting at 9:30 a.m. New York time. To listen, see LIVE <GO>.)
--Editors: Steven Frank, Stephen Cunningham
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