There's nothing like the threat of $100 oil to spur the revenue of agricultural giant Monsanto
Sales grew 36% year over year to $2.1 billion for the company's fiscal first quarter. Most of the top-line growth was thanks to increased sales of Roundup, although corn seed sales were also on the rise. Since sales growth significantly outpaced costs, the bottom line looked even better, with diluted EPS nearly tripling.
Oil prices have pushed up the demand for biofuels and production in Brazil, where Monsanto has about 80% of the corn seed market. The planting of additional acres clearly helped Monsanto this quarter, but it also bodes well for rivals Syngenta
Even with its 55% growth in herbicide sales, Monsanto isn't resting on its laurels -- and for good reason. Roundup sales are directly tied to the amount of acres planted. On the other hand, the amount the company can charge farmers for seeds is tied to the yield the seeds produce. By creating seeds with new traits -- decent yields even in the face of drought and disease, or higher-oil-content soybeans, for example -- it should be able to increase revenue faster than the number of planted acres increases.
The bottom line is that while the hoopla about oil prices and biofuels will drive Monsanto's growth in the short term, long-term growth will be tied to the scientists, not the oil traders.
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