Pesticide and herbicide company

Makhteshim Agan Industries

today released its financial results, showing a net profit of $20.6 million for the first quarter of 2001.

Its first-quarter revenues are 20% above the $17.1 million in the company's parallel quarter of 2000.

The firm's strong results stand out against the barrage of profit warnings and lowered company forecasts. No doubt, Makhteshim Agan is seen as a ray of light for conglomerate

Koor Industries

(NYSE:KOR).

Makhteshim Agan's revenues rose to $236 million, 6.3% more than the $222 million in the same quarter of 2000. Gross profit grew to $83 million, for the first time crossing the 35% gross-profit rate.

Makhteshim Again CEO Ilan Leviteh relates the higher gross profit to the continued improvement in the company's portfolio. Makhteshim Agan has a growing number of proprietary products, and products acquired from other agrochemical companies. Due to mergers in the industry, agrochemical companies have been forced to post fast earnings.

The company showed a 64% gross-profit rate in its new portfolio products, double that of the veteran products.

Revenues from new products came to $32 million, compared with $26 million in the comparable quarter of 2000. The revenues from the new products account for a growing share of sales.

To date, Makhteshim Agan has acquired products worth $110 million, and has paid for $100 million of those in the first quarter of this year. Leviteh says that as of February 2001, Makhteshim Agan has been enjoying revenues generated by new products that were acquired mostly from Syngeta and Aventis CropScience.

Sales to Western Europe increased sharply to $91.6 million, compared with $79 million in the first quarter of 2000. The increase is attributed to the sale of new products. Leviteh notes that European sales continued to rise despite the euro's continued erosion. But sales in North America dropped to $40 million, compared with $46 million in the first quarter of 2000.

Leviteh emphasizes the company's achievements against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis in the agrochemical industry, due to low price of agricultural products on world markets. Leviteh says that the crisis is reflected in the reports of other companies in the sector, such as the American company the

FMC Corporation

(NYSE:FMC).

The price of agricultural goods remained at an unprecedented low level during the first quarter of 2001. This is directly related to the dire state of the commodities market in 2000, where prices have still not recovered. The reason for the continuing crisis is the particularly high yields of agricultural products, especially soybeans. These yields overturned the gloomy forecasts for a drought in areas where soybeans are grown.

The crisis in the commodities market was further aggravated by excellent climate conditions for growing corn, coupled with a drop in the demand for corn and silage in the wake of the

mad cow disease

, as well as the hoof-and-mouth outbreak.

Leviteh says that the economic slowdown is not affecting Makhteshim Agan, in much the same way as the company isn't affected by boom. The company forecasts that its revenues will continue to rise in the coming quarters due to its new products, and that its net profit will grow thanks to the firm's restructuring which took place last year.