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Monsanto records quarterly loss

SCOTT (AP) — Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed maker that owns and operates Delta and Pine Land in Scott, lost $19 million in the first quarter as global sales of its Roundup herbicide sank in the face of generic competition.

As Roundup results have flagged, Monsanto has shifted focus to its growing biotech seeds division. The company is betting its future on developing new, patented crops that yield higher profits.

CEO Hugh Grant said that the company expects seed orders to increase as the year goes on. He said Monsanto has moved 11 new crops a step further to commercialization over the last year.

It takes decades to move biotech seeds from the laboratory to farmer’s fields, and Grant said the company’s research progress would make Monsanto profitable in the coming decade.

“Our job continues to be to deliver innovation to the farm,” Grant told investors and analysts during a conference call.

Chief technology officer Robert Fraley said the research advancement during 2009 was the fastest ever for Monsanto, and its new products include the first biotech seed developed for international markets, which have been slower to adopt the technology than the United States.

Still, plummeting Roundup sales have made Monsanto’s short-term performance volatile.

The company said Roundup sales were particularly weak in Brazil and Europe, where a global glut of generic Roundup herbicide, called glyphosate, depressed prices.

Monsanto’s loss amounted to $0.03 per share in the quarter ended Nov. 30, versus a profit of $556 million, or $1 per share, a year ago.

Monsanto reaffirmed its previous forecast for earnings of between $3.10 and $3.30 per share for all of 2010.

Revenue fell to $1.7 billion from $2.65 billion a year ago. Analysts expected almost $2 billion in revenue.

Sales fell 57 percent in the St. Louis company’s chemical division to $666 million.

Sales also slipped 6 percent to $1.03 billion in the seed and traits division during the quarter. Corn seed sales fell 9 percent to $569 million for the quarter, while soybean sales fell 5 percent to $201 million.


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