The farm industry seeks any yield-enhancing edge it can find, and Monsanto (NYSE:MON) has made it its mission to give farmers the tools they need to succeed. Yet in its recent quarterly report, Monsanto fell short of its hopes, suffering from the same headwinds that have held back peers like farm-equipment specialist Deere (NYSE:DE). Still, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant and his team of executives have a lot of confidence in the seed and fertilizer company's future prospects. Let's take a closer look at what Monsanto's leaders had to say.
"The breadth, depth, and productivity of our pipeline give us confidence in both our long-term growth targets as well as the strong role that we believe we will play in addressing the evolving landscape across agriculture." -- CEO Hugh Grant
Many investors have focused on Monsanto's near-term challenges. Crop prices are down, and that makes farm professionals less willing and able to spend money on the yield-enhancing products that Monsanto offers. Yet Grant takes a longer-term view, pointing to Monsanto's strategy toward creating gene stacks that will allow combinations of desirable traits to suit farmers in various climates and environments around the world. Given its technological edge, Monsanto expects great things in the future.
"We'll continue with a disciplined approach to evaluating M&A opportunities as we seek a strong strategic fit and synergistic value."-Grant
Consolidation has hit the agricultural productivity industry hard, with two of Monsanto's main rivals choosing to merge. Monsanto's own efforts to find a partner with which to merge have thus far come to naught, but Grant isn't upset with that fact. In his view, the company has a strong plan as an independent player in the industry, and he believes that it will be a partner of choice for prospective merger partners. With choices ranging from licensing relationships, collaborative partnerships, or full-out acquisitions, Monsanto has set the stage to retain its leadership role in the industry.
"The competitive advantage in R&D is what feeds our biggest commercial advantage."-CTO Robb Fraley
Monsanto's pride and joy is its breeding program, and the company hasn't been afraid to spend to enhance it. With the largest and most diverse germplasm library, an unparalleled set of discovery technologies, and a huge integrated testing network, Monsanto has been at the forefront of finding attractive new traits to offer its customers. Genomewide selection will only add to Monsanto's capabilities and bring new products to the table even faster.
"We continue to progress with our plans for the coming U.S. season at Climate, where we're working toward the closing of our most recent agreement with John Deere."-COO Brett Begemann
Monsanto's purchase of The Climate Corporation broadened its ability to use data-analytics techniques to assist farmers in crop management. Late last year, the company made a deal with Deere by which Deere would acquire the Precision Planting equipment business, and Climate would make its FieldView platform available in Deere's farm equipment. The move will give farmers the ability to get seamless access to agronomic data in the field, letting them be as precise as necessary in planning strategies for planting, fertilizer and pesticide application, and harvesting. Monsanto's coordination with Deere is a natural fit that could yield further gains in the future.
"Despite some moderating in our outlook for currency and corn price-mix lift with the competitive pricing dynamics in this challenging kind of environment, we still see an opportunity for a 5% to 7% growth in Seeds and Genomics gross profit."-CFO Pierre Courduroux
Monsanto has faced many of the same challenges as other companies throughout the economy. The strong dollar has hit the company's revenue and earnings, and it expects further weakness to come due to the devaluation of the Argentine peso. Nevertheless, Monsanto sees plenty of licensing revenue coming through its pipeline, and that should help offset crop-price and currency challenges and give the company the ability to sustain its growth even in tough times.
Monsanto has taken a short-term hit from weakness in the industry. With its long-term vision, though, Monsanto is setting itself up for a rebound as soon as commodity prices start to cooperate.