Monsanto sustains loss in fourth quarter

by Eric Schroeder
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ST. LOUIS — Generic competition in the herbicide category, which has led to less demand for Roundup products, contributed to a loss in the final quarter of fiscal 2010 at Monsanto Co.

Net income in the year ended Aug. 31 totaled $1,109 million, equal to $2.04 per share on the common stock, down 47% from $2,109 million, or $3.85 per share, in fiscal 2009. Net sales also were down for the year, falling 10% to $10,502 million from $11,724 million in fiscal 2009.

For the fourth quarter ended Aug. 31, Monsanto sustained a loss of $143 million, which compared with a loss of $233 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales were $1,953 million, up 4% from $1,879 million.

“Our job is to help farmers be more profitable and more productive,” said Hugh Grant, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “When we do that, future business opportunity follows. What we do best is discover, develop and deliver products that matter to farmers. We’re backing new innovation with actions ranging from expanding launches of product offerings to our revamped pricing approach.

“On the heels of fiscal year 2010 and with this year’s harvest ongoing, there’s no doubt that we’re looking forward to seeing the result of expanding product choices and the changes that we’ve made take hold in a new fiscal year. We believe in the opportunity of fiscal year 2010 as the launch point for mid-teens earnings growth.”

In a breakdown of net sales by segment, Monsanto said corn seed and traits sales rose 4% during fiscal 2010 to $4,260 million, up from $4,113 million in fiscal 2009. Soybean seed and traits sales increased 3% to $1,486 million from $1,448 million, and cotton seed and traits sales rose 31% to $611 million from $466 million. In total, Monsanto’s seeds and genomics sales rose 4% to $7,611 million in fiscal 2010.

The company’s Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides did not fare as well in fiscal 2010. Sales for those products fell 42% to $2,029 million. All other agricultural productivity products also finished lower for the year, easing to $862 million from $900 million in fiscal 2009.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2011, Monsanto said it expects 13% to 17% earnings growth, with free cash flow in a range of $800 million to $900 million. The company also expects net cash provided by operating activities to be $1.7 billion to $1.9 billion, and net cash required by investing activities to be approximately $900 million to $1 billion for fiscal year 2011.

“The seeds and genomics segment, which will account for the bulk of Monsanto’s business in fiscal year 2011 and beyond, is expected to deliver both single-digit unit volume growth and mix improvement,” Monsanto said. “The company expects global seed-and-trait unit volume growth in the single digits in 2011, with a mix benefit primarily driven by the U.S. corn product strategy, the expanded availability of Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans and the corn market in Latin America.”

Within the United States, Monsanto said it has newly positioned Genuity Rondup Ready 2 Yield soybeans to promote broader adoption and expects the on-farm experience base to increase from the six million acres planted in 2010 to mid-teens millions of acres in 2011. In corn, Monsanto said it plans to offer farmers more choices of products at more price points.

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