Monsanto 3Q Profit Easily Tops Views

Monsanto (NYSE:MON) revealed a stronger-than-expected 77% surge in fiscal third-quarter profits on Wednesday as the seed giant capitalized on higher volumes across the board.

The St. Louis-based agriculture products company also boosted its fiscal 2011 financial guidance, sending its stock jumping more than 4%.

Monsanto said it earned $680 million, or $1.26 a share, in the quarter ended May 31, compared with a profit of $384 million, or 70 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had called for EPS of just $1.10.

Revenue soared 21% last quarter to $3.59 billion, easily surpassing the Streets view of $3.36 billion. Gross margins leaped to 54.5% from 46.8%.

Corn seed and traits sales climbed to $1.12 billion, up from $1.02 billion the year before, while soybean seed revenue rose to $605 million from $549 million.

We made significant changes to our business this year, and those changes resonated with our customers, CEO Hugh Grant said in a statement. We earned their business and achieved what we set out to achieve: unit volume growth in our core crops, a successful implementation of our agricultural productivity strategy and sustained cost-discipline across our operations.

Looking ahead, Monsanto said it sees non-GAAP EPS of $2.84 to $2.88 for the fiscal year on free-cash flow of $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion. Analysts had been calling for EPS of $2.82 on sales of $11.37 billion.

Shareholders cheered the results and new guidance, bidding the stock 4.33% higher to $69.76. While Monsanto has slumped nearly 4% in 2011 as of Tuesday, it has rallied more than 40% from a year ago.