Monsanto Continues Efforts to Takeover Competitor
WASHINGTON (AP) — Monsanto Co. reported better-than-expected earnings results for the third quarter on Wednesday as executives continued to pursue a $45 billion takeover of Swiss competitor, Syngenta AG.
Company results on a per-share basis rose to $2.39 on stronger revenue from crop chemicals, compared with results of $1.62 per share in the prior-year period.
The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was $2.05 per share.
The St. Louis company reiterated its goal to more than double its 2014 earnings per share by 2019, emphasizing the potential benefits of a combination with Swiss chemical maker Syngenta, which has three times rejected its unsolicited offers.
"Our proposal to combine with Syngenta is an exciting logical next step for our business, offering the opportunity to accelerate innovation and support a more diverse group of farmers around the world," said CEO Hugh Grant, in a statement.
Syngenta provided a more detailed explanation this week of its concerns with Monsanto's takeover offer. In a video posted to its website, Chairman Michel Demaré said the offer undervalues the pesticide maker's business, which "they are trying to buy on the cheap." He also reiterated concerns that Monsanto is underestimating the antitrust challenges.
Monsanto tried to sweeten the offer for shareholders earlier this month, adding a $2 billion guarantee should the proposal fall apart. Syngenta said the proposal remains "inadequate."
Basel-based Syngenta is the world's largest crop chemical producer and its acquisition would help Monsanto diversify its offerings beyond the signature weed killer, Roundup. Sales of that chemical have been hurt in recent months by concerns about its safety when used in large-scale industrial farming.
In March the International Agency for Research on Cancer labeled the Roundup's key ingredient, glyphosate, a "probable carcinogen." The company has demanded a retraction from the group, a French research arm of the World Health Organization. The group has no regulatory powers and no commercial sanctions are expected as a result of the ruling.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which makes its own determinations, said it would consider the French agency's evaluation.
For the period ended May 31, Monsanto said revenue rose 8 percent to $4.58 billion, but missed Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $4.65 billion.
Sales were hurt by decreased demand for the company's best-selling product, biotech corn seeds, as farmers turned to soybeans and other crops. More farmers are favoring soybeans because they cost less to grow and can withstand broader weather variations.
Monsanto's biotech seeds have genetically engineered traits that help farmers increase their crop yield, despite their higher costs.
Weakness in seed sales was offset by growth in the company's chemical business, including a $274 million deal with Scotts Miracle Gro.
Monsanto expects full-year earnings in the range of $5.75 to $6 per share.
Its shares dropped $2.28, or 2 percent, to $110.50 in morning trading Wednesday. Its shares have decreased roughly 6 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased 3 percent. The stock has dropped 7 percent in the last 12 months.