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posted a narrower-than-expected loss in the latest third quarter, due to lower debt levels from its spinoff from




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The St. Louis-based agricultural technology company reported a loss, assuming a reduced debt level was applied to all periods, of $17 million, or 7 cents a share, excluding a pretax charge of $26 million, compared with a loss of $56 million, or 22 cents a share, in the same period last year.

The reported loss for the period narrowed to $66 million, or 25 cents a share, from $127 million, or 49 cents a share, a year ago. Two analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected a loss of 27 cents a share.

Sales for the quarter rose to $1 billion from $983 million last year.

Monsanto completed an initial public offering earlier this month. The company is 85%-owned by Pharmacia, which also on Monday reported third-quarter earnings that were

in line with Wall Street's expectations.