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Syngenta Upbeat for Spring Planting Season

Syngenta, the world's largest agrochemicals company, said it was confident ahead of the upcoming planting season and will hike its dividend 19 percent after it posted a full-year net profit that beat expectations.

Syngenta, which makes products to kill weeds and bugs as well as genetically-modified seeds, posted a 17 percent rise in full-year profit to $1.87 billion.

This beat the average analyst forecast in a Reuters poll for an 11 percent rise to $1.78 billion.

High crop prices have driven demand for crop protection products and advanced seeds and equipment as farmers faced with increasingly erratic and extreme weather conditions turn to technology to boost yields.

Latin American farmers have snapped up Syngenta's products to make up for shortfalls in the wake of the worst drought in over 50 years in North America, which sent U.S. corn and soybean prices to record highs.

"Our confidence in the coming season is reinforced by the fourth quarter business strength, notably in North and Latin America, as well as robust commodity crop prices," Syngenta Chief Executive Mike Mack said in a statement.

Syngenta is banking on innovation and a more integrated business that supplies farmers with everything from seeds and pesticides to fertilizers and support services, to help it reach its revised 2020 target for sales for its top eight crops of $25 billion.

The buoyant end to the Latin America planting season and strong demand for early seed and herbicide sales in the U.S. prompted Monsanto to raise its earnings outlook for the fiscal year 2013.

Sales at Syngenta, which competes with DuPont, Monsanto and Germany's Bayer, rose 7 percent in 2012 to $14.2 billion, in line with the average analyst forecast for $14.3 billion.

The Basel-based firm said it would propose a 19 percent hike in its dividend to 9.50 Swiss francs per share, compared to 8 francs per share a year ago.

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