Shares of Monsanto rose 1.8% on Monday after the company was upgraded by Lehman Brothers.
Citing overall improvement in the global economy, Lehman Brothers analyst Sergey Vasnetsov raised Monsanto to equal-weight from underweight, telling investors the company's growth outlook had finally stabilized.
Indeed, a week ago, Monsanto raised earnings guidance for the third quarter and fiscal year, crediting a lower tax rate and strong agricultural season in the U.S. While the company also warned that sales of its Roundup herbicide were due to slide in the fourth quarter, in Vasnetsov's view, sales of seeds will offset any weakness.
"With the seeds and genomics business becoming a greater source of Monsanto's profits, the increased stability in the downstream crop markets should help smooth the volume trends," said the analyst, in his note. "The seeds growth should more than offset the decline in Roundup profits, which now seem to be approaching a 'steady state'." (Lehman Brothers does and seeks to do business with the companies covered in its research reports.)
So far this year, shares of Monsanto have jumped 23.3% because the company is relatively insulated from rising energy costs, unlike many in the chemical industry. But while Vasnetsov is more positive on Monsanto's prospects, the analyst is now essentially neutral on the company's shares and recommended that investors check out a pair of rivals instead.
"In our opinion, investors should consider the two major U.S. industrial gas producers,
, which also have very limited exposure to fluctuations in energy prices," said the analyst. "Notably, the industrial gases also have significant leverage to the ongoing industrial and electronic recoveries, which will likely allow these companies to grow faster than Monsanto."
In reaction to the note, shares of Monsanto rose 62 cents to $36.10, while Praxair and Air Products had marginal gains.