The agricultural products giant disclosed that net sales for fiscal 2005 climbed 16% to $6.3 billion, while per-share earnings slipped to $0.94 from $0.99. Much of the decrease in earnings, however, was the result of the company's acquisition of Emergent Genetics and Seminis. Factoring in some one-time items, such as an in-process research-and-development write-off from the acquisitions, Monsanto's fiscal 2005 "ongoing" earnings per share arrives at $2.08, compared with ongoing EPS of $1.59 in 2004.
A deeper look at Monsanto's results indicates that management is on top of things. The company's seeds and traits line continues to expand at a breakneck pace. At the beginning of fiscal 2005, Monsanto had projected that seeds and traits' gross profit would be $1.5 billion; Monsanto ended the year with gross profits in that business of $2 billion. Perhaps a more impressive point, though, is that even in the struggling Roundup herbicide segment, which is facing tough generic and branded competition, gross profits arrived at $637 million, down from $703 million in 2004, but above the beginning-of-the-year projection of $600 million.
Breaking results down on a geographical basis, Monsanto again looks solid. Global agricultural is in a state of flux, as developing countries in Latin America and elsewhere are beefing up production in a variety of crops and challenging the United States' long-standing dominance. Monsanto appears to be in step with the changes; 2005 sales for the Latin America region grew 13%, while sales in the Europe-Africa and Asia-Pacific regions exhibited even higher increases of 25% and 33%, respectively.
Monsanto also had good news on the integration of one of its acquisitions. Seminis performed better than expected in 2005, and management expects the business to contribute to earnings and free cash flow in 2006. The company is also accelerating Seminis' vegetable and seed breeding operations.
The latest results indicate that Monsanto is well-led. As for the future, the company now expects fiscal 2006 earnings to be between $2.35 and $2.50 per share, up from a June prediction of $2.34. At 25 times forward earnings, Monsanto looks attractive.
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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.