NEW YORK (AP) - A mild winter spurred farmers to sow crops earlier and in larger numbers, allowing seed company Monsanto Co. to reap a 35-percent higher profit in its fiscal third quarter.
The quarter ended in May represents the end of the corn planting season. The government estimates that U.S. farmers, encouraged by a mild winter and rising prices, planted more corn than any time since 1937.
That helped drive up sales of corn seeds and traits at the world's largest seed company by 35 percent to $1.52 billion. Corn is used not just for food, but also for fuel, animal feed and syrup for soda. Corn is by far Monsanto's largest unit. Sales also rose solidly in Latin America and Eastern Europe.
The U.S. agricultural giant, which produces genetically engineered seeds and the herbicide Roundup, also maintained its full-year earnings forecast after boosting it last month. Genetically engineered seeds are used by farmers for their pest resistance and ability to produce bigger crops.
The St. Louis company earned $937 million, or $1.74 per share, in the quarter ended in May. That's compared with $692 million, or $1.28 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 17 percent to $4.22 billion.
Monsanto's adjusted profit of $1.63 per share, which excludes a tax benefit, topped analysts' expectations of $1.55. Its sales figure also beat analysts' consensus view of $3.97 billion, according to FactSet.
Soybean seed and trait sales, the company's next largest segment, rose 15 percent to $698 million. Sales of vegetable seeds were the only declining segment, due to weakness in European economies.
Monsanto confirmed its adjusted profit forecast of $3.65 to $3.70 per share for the fiscal year. The company expects adjusted earnings to grow up to 25 percent for the fiscal year that ends in August.
It sees continued strength in its core U.S. business combined with rapid growth from an emerging international presence.
Shares rose 3.9 percent, or $3.02, to close at $80.89.
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