Monsanto sees stronger earnings in 2008

/ Source: The Associated Press

Monsanto Co. shares jumped Tuesday after the agricultural products firm said earnings per share for the second quarter and for all of fiscal 2008 will be stronger than originally projected.

St. Louis-based Monsanto said its seeds and traits business will contribute more than expected to profit due to brand share growth and increased volume in the soybean business. Meanwhile, Monsanto said its Roundup and other herbicides have performed well in the second quarter, with demand exceeding supply.

Monsanto now projects that its full-year earnings per share will be in the range of $3.38 to $3.48, including a gain of 23 cents per share for a settlement of claims related to subsidiary Solutia’s emergence from bankruptcy.

Excluding the gain, the expected earnings per share range from $3.15 to $3.25. The company previously expected full-year earnings per share of $2.70 to $2.80. Analysts expect full-year earnings of $2.87 per share.

Monsanto projected that its second-quarter profit will top Wall Street expectations when released on April 2. The company expects second-quarter earnings per share of $1.98, including the 23-cent gain. Excluding the gain, the company expects earnings of $1.75 per share. Analysts predicted second-quarter earnings per share of $1.34.

“Our growth over the next five years will be built on our seeds-and-traits platform, and we’ve already exceeded a number of milestones that put us ahead of our plan to deliver consistent, sustainable growth,” said Hugh Grant, Monsanto’s chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Monsanto now expects its seeds and traits business to achieve gross profit of $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion for fiscal 2008, up 20 percent from the previous year.