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Seed sales boost Monsanto earnings

(Friday, April 2, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Jim Suhr, Associated Press, 03/31/04: ST. LOUIS - Agriculture biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. said Wednesday its second-quarter earnings rose on stronger corn seed sales and higher profits for biotech corn and soybean products, beating Wall Street's expectations.

The St. Louis-based company said it earned $154 million, or 57 cents per share, during the quarter ending Feb. 29, compared with $100 million, or 38 cents per share, a year ago.

The earnings included 13 cents per share in charges, largely tied to restructuring.

Its earnings of 70 cents a share without the charges easily beat the consensus forecast of 56 cents a share by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call. The analysts' estimates also exclude one-time items.

Monsanto said its second-quarter net sales jumped 15 percent to $1.5 billion from $1.3 billion, largely due to continued growth of its seeds and genomics segment, notably in the United States. During the three-month period, sales of corn seeds and traits spiked 46 percent.

Monsanto officials reiterated that the company expects earnings per share for fiscal 2004, including estimated restructuring charges and goodwill write-offs, in the range of 55 cents to 65 cents per diluted share.

Monsanto's earnings for the first half of the 2004 fiscal year were $57 million, or 21 cents per share, compared with $82 million, or 31 cents per share, during the same period in 2003.

Sales over the first six months of the 2004 fiscal year were $2.5 billion, up 18 percent from $2.1 billion in 2003. Improved sales so far this year were largely driven by improvements in the corn and soybean business and a shift in timing associated with biotechnology traits revenues, along with stronger sales of Roundup herbicide in Brazil, the company said.

Monsanto shares were down 2 cents to $36.12 in morning trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.