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Syngenta Profit Leaps Amid Food, Biofuel Boom

Full-year net profit at the world's biggest agrochemicals company, Syngenta, rose 75 percent to $1.11 billion, beating forecasts, as crop prices rose sharply amid raging demand for food and biofuel.

Swiss-based Syngenta, which makes products to fight weeds and fungi and develops seeds for genetically altered pest-resistant crops, said on Thursday it expected double-digit percentage growth in earnings per share through 2010.

"Following several years in which demand has exceeded agricultural production, stocks of major commodities reached record low levels, prompting sharp rises in crop prices," Syngenta Chief Executive Mike Mack said in a statement.

Growing demand for agricultural products, including from biofuels producers, helped boost Syngenta's shares by more than a quarter in 2007, faster than the DJ Stoxx European chemicals sector but behind U.S. competitor Monsanto .

Full-year sales rose 15 percent to $9.24 billion, and earnings per share (EPS) rose 80 percent to $11.42.

The company proposed a dividend of 4.80 Swiss francs ($4.38) per share.

Syngenta trades at more than 20 times forecast 2008 earnings, according to Reuters data, ahead of specialty chemicals companies like Ciba and Clariant and U.S. major DuPont , but behind Monsanto.

Syngenta had been expected to post profits of $939 million in 2007 and sales of $8.95 billion, according to a Reuters poll of 11 analysts.

The company had previously forecast high-teens percentage growth in earnings per share for 2007.

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