Monsanto posts larger-than-expected 4Q loss

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Agriculture business giant Monsanto Co. reported a wider-than-expected loss Wednesday for its fourth quarter on higher expenses, including a one-time legal settlement.

Nonetheless, the company said it expects "strong double-digit to mid-teens earnings growth in fiscal year 2015 despite continued industry headwinds."

Monsanto has dominated the bioengineered-seed business for years and recently began developing products specifically for emerging markets like Argentina, Brazil and parts of Asia. The company is also making investments in computerized tools for the agricultural sector.

The loss amounted to $156 million, or 31 cents per share, came despite higher sales of the company's two key business units, genetically-engineered seeds and herbicide.

The loss reflected by extra expenses, including a one-time payment to settle an environmental legal case. Without that payment the company would have lost 27 cents per share.

That was still below the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research, which predicted a loss of 24 cents per share.

Quarterly revenue increased more than 19 percent to $2.63 billion in the period, beating Wall Street forecasts. Analysts expected $2.42 billion, according to Zacks.

In the last quarter sales of biotech seeds increased 16 percent to $1.38 billion. Sales of the company's herbicide and agricultural products grew 23 percent to $1.25 billion.

For full-year 2015 the company is looking for earnings in the range of $5.75 to $6. Executives cautioned that its first quarter 2015 earnings would likely be half the level of its first quarter 2014 results, due to reduced seed planting in key markets and other seasonal factors. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected earnings of $6.02 for fiscal 2015.

Monsanto shares fell 45 cents to $109.65 in morning trading Wednesday. Its shares have declined 7 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased almost 5 percent.