NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After more than a year keeping seed behemoth Monsanto (MON) on a hold rating, Citi analysts P.J. Juvekar and Anthony Pettinariare upgrading the stock to buy while raising the price target to $62 from $56.
In their latest research report, the analysts say that the stock has a downside price of $45.
They have also raised their 2011 earnings per share outlook for Monsanto to $3.20 from $3.10. The analysts note that Monsanto could benefit from higher corn prices, but that their upgrade is not a call on corn. Rather, it's a valuation call on Monsanto. They say that the company is "absolutely the worst" performing stock in its sector this year, down 37% year-to-date.
"In Monsanto's last downcycle in 2002, conditions were eerily similar to today," Juvekar wrote. "Roundup had just gone off patent and prices had collapsed, slashing company profits. New pipeline traits like corn rootworm and stacked traits looked promising, but weren't yet contributing to the bottom-line. Farmers were upset at Monsanto because it had kept ... prices too high. Incidentally, Monsanto was also being investigated by the Department of Justice, similar to today."
Monsanto is currently set to pay a $2.5 million civil fine for failing to tell farmers that its insect-repelling cotton seed wasn't fully-approved by the environmental protection agency.
Monsanto may be in a rough patch right now, but the Citi analysts believe that there's upside ahead for the stock given that it's still a "technology leader" with a solid product pipeline.
Monsanto stock fell by 1 cent to $51.20 on the day.
-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York
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