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Source: Monsanto news release

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Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) delivered solid results for the third quarter of fiscal year 2014 and raised its guidance to the upper end of its previously announced ranges for fiscal year 2014.

The company announced a target to at least double full year ongoing EPS by the end of fiscal year 2019 based on its core business and the transformational potential of its new platforms.

With the company's updated long term outlook, Monsanto also announced a new $10 billion share repurchase authorization.

For the third quarter, Monsanto reported ongoing and as-reported EPS of $1.62. Despite greater headwinds across the industry, the company today raised its full year outlook to the upper end of its previous guidance ranges for both ongoing EPS and free cash flow, with ongoing EPS guidance of $5.10 to $5.20 and as-reported EPS guidance of $5.12 to $5.22. (For a reconciliation of ongoing EPS see note 1).

"Through the third quarter, we're on track for seeds and traits to drive a majority of our full year growth. That performance in a more challenging agricultural environment speaks to the breadth and customer value of our product portfolio," said Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive officer.

"Coupled with an expanding portfolio of solutions for farmers, this provides confidence to target at least doubling our ongoing earnings per share over the next five years and evolve our capital allocation priorities; including an additional $10 billion share repurchase authorization that further enhances Monsanto's ability to return value to our shareowners."

Strategic Targets

Reflecting the company's continuing momentum, strong performance and ongoing opportunity, Monsanto today outlined a new long-term target to at least double full year ongoing EPS by the end of fiscal year 2019. The new target reflects management's confidence in the growth opportunity for the core business and transformational potential in new platforms.

The largest driver of the overall growth over the next five years is expected to come from the established core seeds and traits business, with an expected contribution of more than $4 billion in total incremental gross profit growth during that period.

At the same time, Monsanto continues to make strong progress with new platforms, including its Climate Corporation platform, which is expected to contribute a key part to Monsanto's strategy and earnings profile during this five year growth horizon.

Given the long term outlook for the business and the favorable debt market, the company also announced its intent to adjust the capital structure to target a Net-Debt-to-EBITDA ratio of 1.5 by the end fiscal year 2015. The target is subject to seasonality of the business and management will regularly review and evaluate its capital allocation priorities and capital structure with the goal of remaining both flexible and disciplined.

Monsanto plans to maintain a strong investment-grade credit rating in order to provide access to attractive financing for working capital needs and for mid- to long-term needs.

Monsanto's balance sheet and cash flow generation will afford the company the financial flexibility to pursue both organic and external growth opportunities while returning capital to shareowners.

With approximately $1.1 billion remaining in the company's current share repurchase program, the company announced a new two-year $10 billion share repurchase authorization. Using cash on hand and access to debt, Monsanto intends to use approximately $6 billion in an accelerated share repurchase in the near term.

Results of Operations

The company achieved solid third quarter and year-to-date results that continue to reflect strong performance across the expected portfolio contributors of its business.

Net sales for the quarter were $4.3 billion increasing to $13 billion for the first nine months. Operating expenses were up $58 million in the third quarter compared to the prior year due in part to additional costs as the company invests in its precision agriculture and biologicals platforms.

In the three month comparison, selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses remained flat as a percentage of sales. Quarterly research and development (R&D) expenses were up $35 million over the prior year period.

The company's third-quarter earnings per share (EPS) was $1.62 on an ongoing and as-reported basis, compared to an EPS of $1.66 on an ongoing basis and $1.68 on an as-reported basis in the same quarter last year. EPS for the first nine months of fiscal year 2014 was $5.43 on an ongoing and $5.45 on an as-reported basis, compared with an EPS of $5.01 on an ongoing and $5.05 on an as-reported basis in the same quarter last year.

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