Monsanto Boosts Buyback After Clearing a Low Bar

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Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON) reported third-quarter fiscal 2014 results before markets opened Wednesday. The fertilizer and seed maker reported adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.62 on revenue of $4.25 billion. In the same period a year ago, Monsanto reported adjusted diluted EPS of $1.66 on revenue of $4.25 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.56 and $4.4 billion in revenue.

Monsanto raised the low-end of fiscal year 2014 EPS guidance from $5.00 to $5.10, and left the high end as it was at $5.20. The company also raised the low-end of its free cash flow guidance from $600 million to $700 million and left the high end at $800 million. The free cash flow estimate includes the $930 million in cash it paid for Climate Corporation and Monsanto’s recent alliance with Novozymes A/S.

The consensus estimate for fiscal year 2014 EPS is $5.25 and revenues are forecast at $15.9 billion. Those numbers are slightly below analysts’ estimates from the end of the company’s second quarter, when EPS was forecast at $5.26 and revenues were forecast at $15.96 billion. Since the beginning of Monsanto’s fiscal year, consensus estimates have fallen from an EPS estimate of $5.33 and revenues of $16.11 billion.

To offset its weakish performance Monsanto launched a new $10 billion share buyback program to complement the $1.1 billion remaining in its existing repurchase program. The company said that using cash on hand it “intends to use approximately $6 billion in an accelerated share repurchase in the near term.” A classic instance of buying investors’ affection when you fail to earn it.

And those investors were loving it Wednesday morning. Monsanto’s shares were up about 6.2% in premarket trading to $128.07, well above the 52-week range of $94.00 to $123.99. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $131.60 before the report.

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