Monsanto reports smaller loss, forecasts profit below estimates
By Carey Gillam
(Reuters) - Monsanto Co (MON.N: Cotización), the world's largest seed company, reported a narrower fourth-quarter loss on Wednesday and said it sees continued growth in the new fiscal year on sales of corn and soybean seeds.
Monsanto, known for its genetically engineered corn, soybeans and other crops as well as the popular Roundup herbicide, forecast earnings in a range of $5.75 to $6.00 per share for the 2015 year. Analysts were expecting $6.03.
Monsanto's stock was up 0.3 percent in volatile trade near midday as company executives laid out plans for growth and investments in new business units for the 2015 fiscal year despite a "more challenging" environment for global commodities.
“We’re able to commit to strong growth today and at the same time step up significant, incremental investments to unlock future growth," Monsanto Chief Executive Hugh Grant said on a conference call with analysts.
Monsanto said profits will be affected by increasing investments in new technology platforms in 2015. The will pour $350 million into a new farm data business unit, Climate Corp, and other emerging business units. In 2014, those investments totaled $150 million.
Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold said that even with grain prices depressed, Monsanto's premium seed products should continue to be popular with farmers, he said.
"We think that fiscal '15 can play out reasonably well, even in a pretty challenging agricultural environment," Arnold said.
Monsanto sees flat to lower key U.S. and Latin America corn seed plantings for 2015, while drought in Australia will hurt cotton sales. But those elements should be offset by upgrades and expansion of soybean products, officials said. Continuación...