Monsanto Profit Nearly Triples, Raises Forecast

James A. Finley

Agricultural company Monsanto said Thursday its quarterly profit nearly tripled, helped by strength in its corn seed and herbicide businesses, and it raised its 2008 forecast.

Net income rose to $256 million, or 46 cents per share, in the first quarter ended Nov. 30 from $90 million, or 16 cents per share, a year earlier.

That profit beat both the company's and analysts' forecasts for earnings of 35 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

The St. Louis company reported net sales of $2.1 billion, up 36 percent from a year earlier.

Sales of corn seed and traits during the quarter jumped to $467 million from $360 million a year ago, while sales of its Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides climbed to $1.0 billion from $649 million.

The company raised its forecast for 2008 earnings to between $2.50 to $2.60 per share, up from its November forecast for $2.20 to $2.40 per share.

Free cash flow for 2008 is now expected to be between $900 million to $1 billion, up from the earlier forecast of $800 million to $900 million.

Monsanto said those forecasts did not include a likely gain from its sister company Soluta's emergence from bankruptcy protection, which could add 22 cents to 24 cents per share in the second quarter. Monsanto holds some environmental liabilities for Solutia.

Shares in Monsanto traded up 3.5 percent in pre-market action on the New York Stock Exchange. Those shares more than doubled during 2007, rising from $52.53 to $111.69 per share, outpacing the 28 percent gain in the Dow Jones Chemicals Index.