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NEW YORK (
Monsanto's(MON - Get Report) top executives will have some explaining to do when they convene for the company's quarterly earnings conference call on Wednesday morning.
Analysts and portfolio managers will likely grill executives -- especially Monsanto's Scotsman CEO Hugh Grant -- about the performance of the company's new corn seed, planted commercially for the first time this year, called SmartStax. Billed as an upgrade, a kind of corn 2.0, SmartStax replaced an earlier version, called TripleGuard, and represented Monsanto's greatest hope for fueling future profit growth.
Much to Monsanto's chagrin, however, early results from this harvest season indicate that the bioengineered plants that have bloomed from those seeds haven't been as prodigious with maize as other brands, or even the older Monsanto seeds. Investors have lambasted Monsanto shares, taking them lower by 10% in September alone. The stock has lost about 41% of its value during 2010.
"This will be the first time management has had an opportunity to address the public on the issue," noted Colin Isaac, an analyst at
Atlantic Equities, a research house that advises institutional investors. "Maybe they'll have something to say to contradict the negative sentiment."
The St. Louis company already pre-announced fourth-quarter earnings in late August -- forecasting a range between $2.40 and $2.45 a share for the fiscal year 2010, which ended Aug. 31 -- so there's little contention surrounding the financial results it will report before the bell Wednesday, especially since the quarter is a seasonally slow one to begin with.
All eyes will be focused, therefore, on what Monsanto has to say about 2011. The yields produced by SmartStax during the harvest this fall will impact next year's business, after all, serving either to bolster the company's corn-seed marketing or torpedo it. Most analysts have trimmed their estimates for 2011 SmartStax sales volumes, which are measured in the number of acres planted with a crop seed.