Monsanto Narrows Loss

The chemical and seed company meets first-quarter expectations.
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Monsanto

(MON)

Wednesday said its first-quarter loss was smaller than a year ago, thanks to gains in the seed business.

Monsanto also reaffirmed its earnings guidance for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 at a range of $1.85 to $2.00 on an ongoing basis and $1.56 to $1.71 on a reported basis. The Thomson First Call consensus is $2.02 a share.

The developer of agricultural chemicals and genetically engineered seeds said it lost $40 million, or 15 cents a share, on revenue of $1.1 billion for the three months ended Nov. 30. For the same period last year, the company lost $97 million, or 37 cents a share, on revenue of $1.03 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting a profit of $22.7 million, or 13 cents a share, on revenue of $1.08 billion. However, if an assortment of charges and gains are excluded, Monsanto's results were in line with the consensus EPS view.

Monsanto's first quarter was affected by a pretax charge of $284 million, or $181 million after-tax, relating to a reserve associated with the bankruptcy of Monsanto's former chemical businesses that were spun off as an independent company,

Solutia,

(SOLUQ)

, in 1997. The charge was worth 68 cents a share.

The cost of the reserve was offset somewhat by a $106 million tax benefit from some discontinued operations and some continuing operations in Europe. The tax benefit was worth 40 cents a share.

Monsanto's stock dropped 64 cents, or 1.2%, to $51.70.

Hugh Grant, the company's chairman and CEO, said sales of seeds and genomic traits produced "good early results" in the U.S. as well as in Brazil, Europe and Australia. The key quarter will be the three months ending Feb. 28.

Sales of seeds and traits gained 20% to $461 million for the first quarter. Sales of agricultural products, including the company's herbicide Roundup, slipped 1% to $637 million.