UPDATE 2-Monsanto loss deeper than expected, forecast weak
Oct 2 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co, the world's largest seed company, reported a deeper quarterly loss on Wednesday as seed sales slipped, and its 2014 profit forecast fell short of Wall Street estimates.
The company's shares fell 2.2 percent to $102.75 in early trading.
Monsanto, the leading developer of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and other crops, said it expects earnings in the new fiscal year, begun Sept. 1, of $5.00 to $5.20 per share, below analysts' average estimate of $5.30, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Monsanto also said it was acquiring a climate data science company as part of a long-term growth plan. The acquisition of San Francisco-based Climate Corp for $930 million will dilute fiscal 2014 earnings by about 14 cents a share, the company said.
Overall, Monsanto lost $249 million, or 47 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $229 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts on average were expecting a loss of 43 cents a share.
Sales rose to $2.2 billion from $2.1 billion, but sales of its key seeds and genomics business dropped to $1.19 billion from $1.20 billion.
BGC Financial analyst Mark Gulley said the earnings mix was unfavorable. "Seed gross profit was down more than expected," he said in a note to investors.
Gross profit as a percentage of net sales was unchanged at 42 percent, but expenses rose to 35 percent of net sales from 34 percent a year earlier.
The acquisition of Climate Corp, expected to close in the first quarter, will complement Monsanto's FieldScripts precision planting platform for farmers. Monsanto and rival DuPont Pioneer have been racing to roll out data-driven products to help farmers.
In combination with Climate Corp, the FieldScripts product will tie in weather data analysis with field conditions information to help farmers make better planting and harvest decisions, Monsanto said.
The system also can recommend pest management based on disease and weather patterns.
Monsanto said that in 2014 it will launch FieldScripts across four states on hundreds of thousands of acres at a price of about $10 per acre.
It said its farm trials in 2012 showed a production boost of five to 10 bushels per acre when FieldScripts was used.