Monsanto earnings fall as South American farmers cut back on corn planting

MarketsAssociated Press

Monsanto said Wednesday its earnings fell 34 percent in its first fiscal quarter as South American farmers cut back on planting corn, reducing demand for the company's biotech-enhanced seeds.

U.S. farmers harvested record crops of soybeans and corn last year, sending prices on those food staples to their lowest levels in years. That has resulted in farmers in South America and elsewhere reducing the number of acres they dedicate to corn. Monsanto said its business was also affected by reduced cotton planting in Australia.

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The St. Louis-based company reported a profit of $243 million, or 50 cents per share, down from $368 million, or 69 cents per share in the prior year period. Earnings, adjusted to account for discontinued operations, came to 47 cents per share in the most recent quarter.

The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 34 cents per share.

The agriculture products company's revenue fell more than 8 percent to $2.87 billion in the period, on lower sales of corn seeds and herbicide. Analysts expected $2.96 billion, according to Zacks.

Monsanto expects full-year earnings in the range of $5.75 to $6 per share.

Monsanto shares have decreased nearly 3 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has climbed slightly more than 8 percent. The stock has increased slightly in the last 12 months.