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World's largest seed company Monsanto (NYSE: MON ) is slated to come out with its third-quarter numbers this week. Analysts are estimating earnings to be around 27% higher from the year-ago quarter. Things tell me it shouldn't be tough for Monsanto to meet these estimates. Here's why.
Set to head north
The U.S. planting season kicked off to a roaring start early this year thanks to the weather being warmer than usual. In its second quarter alone (which ended in February), Monsanto mentioned having benefited from the early plantations. And that happened at a time when the planting season was yet to fully take off. Which again means that the real benefit of strong plantations should be reflected in Monsanto's third quarter, which I feel might even push the company's top-line growth past analyst estimates of 11.3%.
For those of you not yet aware, Monsanto already gave us a hint of strong third-quarter sales when it raised its full-year earnings guidance in May. Corn -- its biggest business driver -- was planted at a rapid pace this season, and the company made the most of it by selling aggressively. But it wasn't just the U.S. where Monsanto saw sales rise in the past few months; it sold more in Latin America than it had expected despite severe drought conditions prevailing in the region. Overall, it should be a good third quarter as far as revenue is concerned.
I am looking forward to more details of Monsanto's latest research and development initiatives in its earnings call. One that should find mention is the company's recent foray into precision farming, which entails using technology to improve farm yields with less resource. Monsanto has just taken over planting technology-maker Precision Planting -- a company that has enviable names such as Deere and CNH Global on its customer list.
With peers working hard to innovate, this acquisition should help Monsanto stay ahead in the race. Syngenta (NYSE: SYT ) recently licensed a genetic technology that will help farmers improve yields. Two months back, DuPont (NYSE: DD ) opened a new research facility dedicated to its seed and genetics business. Dupont is fast emerging as a huge agricultural play, and posing to be a strong competitor to Monsanto, with big plans related to the introduction of 154 new corn hybrids and refuge products this year. Interestingly, the two companies have a couple of legal cases running between them. In the latest instance, Monsanto has sued DuPont for duplicating one of its breeding technologies.
The Foolish bottom line
Sadly, Monsanto's bug fiasco seems to be resurfacing with reports of rootworms attacking its pest-resistant corn on Illinois fields. I am expecting the earnings call to throw some light on the matter.
Monsanto's stock recently inched closer to its 52-week high after the company announced a $1-billion buyback program. Great numbers might just help it maintain the momentum. To make sure you don't miss out on analysis of its numbers and beyond, click here to add Monsanto to your stock watchlist.
Meanwhile, it's still not too late to check out The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012. This company is employing a familiar and proven business model in emerging markets in Latin America and looks set to deliver. This report is 100% free, so read now!