Monsanto Posts Loss, to Cut Jobs (16/10/2003)

*Monsanto Posts Loss, to Cut Jobs
*World's biggest GE company pulls out of Europe
Monsanto Posts Loss, to Cut Jobs
Wednesday, October 15, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  - Agrochemical company Monsanto Co. (MON) on Wednesday said its quarterly loss widened and it would cut its work force by up to 9 percent next year in a restructuring aimed at focusing the company's resources on its seeds and biotech traits businesses.

But Monsanto shares fell as much as 6 percent as the company projected 2004 earnings below current estimates.

"The stock is reacting to the modest growth (projection)," said Buckingham Research analyst John Roberts. But "everything seems to be moving in the right direction."

To trim costs, Monsanto will cut its global work force of 13,200 by 7 to 9 percent next year. It said it plans to cut costs tied to its slowing herbicide business, exit a European breeding and seed business for wheat and barley, and end its research in plant-made pharmaceuticals.

Monsanto said the cutbacks could yield compound annual earnings growth of 10 percent in 2005 and 2006.

"Unlike many past Monsanto restructurings... our decisions were made from a position of strength and growth," CEO Hugh Grant he said in a conference call with investors. "We're making strategic choices that will contribute to our mid-term growth."

Restructuring charges are expected to total up to $155 million after tax, or 59 cents a share, in fiscal 2004. The company should then see after-tax savings of $80 million to $95 million in fiscal 2005 and about $90 million to $105 million in fiscal 2006, with continued savings going forward.

In its first earnings guidance for fiscal 2004, Monsanto set a range of $1.40 to $1.50 per share. Analysts on average expected Monsanto to earn $1.57 per share next year, according to Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Plc.

The company said its forecast excludes the cost of restructuring, estimated at 59 cents per share, and a goodwill write-off up to $80 million tied to the European business.

Monsanto's fourth quarter ended Aug. 31 was costly as the company posted a 96 cent-per-share charge related its August agreement to settle several lawsuits for $390 million.  The litigation involved a Monsanto chemical plant that made polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, decades ago in Alabama, that residents claimed caused property and health damage.

The charge put the quarterly net loss at $188 million, or 72 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $27 million, or 10 cents a share, in the same period for 2002.

Analysts on average expected Monsanto to earn 23 cents a share, according to Reuters Research.

Sales increased 10 percent to $1.3 billion in the fourth quarter on increased sales of branded corn seed and higher revenues for specialty biotech corn and soybeans, the company said.

But sales for the year were flat at $4.9 billion as the higher seed revenues were offset by lower sales in the company's Roundup herbicide and other chemical businesses.

For the year, Monsanto reported net income of $68 million, or 26 cents per share, compared to a loss of $1.8 billion, or $6.67 a share, for fiscal 2002.

Wednesday's results were complicated by Monsanto's switch to a fiscal year ending in August from its historic fiscal year-end of Dec. 31.

Monsanto's bread and butter for years has been its Roundup family of herbicides. But the patent on the chief ingredient expired in the U.S. three years ago, and the company has been attempting to shift its business focus to seeds and biotechnology traits for corn, soybeans, and other crops.

Monsanto shares were off $1.26 at $24.75 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange (search).
World's biggest GE company pulls out of Europe

In a major development signalling a further decline in global GE prospects, the world's biggest biotechnology company Monsanto has announced it is pulling out of developing wheat and barley for the European market, Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

The company has also announced it will slash its global workforce by 7 to 9 per cent by the end of August next year, discontinue its plant-made pharmaceuticals programme and reduce the costs associated with its Roundup herbicide business.

"This is hugely significant for New Zealand," Ms Fitzsimons said today.

"Europe is one of our biggest markets. Monsanto's move confirms how sensitive this market is. It confirms that there is no point growing GE products when one of our biggest markets doesn't want them.

"We also have to be aware that if we become a GE producer, Europe could turn its back not only on any GE products, but on all of our products, as our non-GE products stand to be tainted by association.

"It is also hugely significant that Monsanto is moving out of its plant-made pharmaceuticals programme.

"Many people don't realise that the vision for a future GE-producing New Zealand, as planned by sectors of our business and science communities, and by our Government, rests not in food products but in biopharming - the genetic engineering of food crops and animals to contain medical products including vaccines.

"Clearly Monsanto is not finding this operation profitable. This should be a warning to New Zealand," Ms Fitzsimons said.

Monsanto announced what it is calling its "mid-term strategic actions" last night our time, in tandem with its latest financial results. Go to:

The next thing to watch for, tomorrow morning our time, is the results of the British Government's farm-scale trials of GE crops. Go to: <http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/fse/>

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP: 04 470 6661 or 0274 586 068
Ali Tocker, press secretary: 04 470 6723 or 021 528 067

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