Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, agreed to buy The Climate Corp. for about $930 million to provide farmers with weather data and agronomic modeling to boost yields and manage risk.
Closely held Climate Corp. was founded in 2006 by software engineers and data scientists who previously worked at Google Inc. and other Silicon Valley technology companies, St. Louis- based Monsanto said today in a statement. San Francisco-based Climate Corp. also sells farm insurance and is an authorized provider for the government crop insurance program, according to its website.
Data science “represents the agriculture sector’s next major breakthrough,” Monsanto said in the statement.
Monsanto is looking to build on its core business of selling genetically modified crop seeds and associated herbicides. Today’s acquisition, the company’s largest in seven years, will bolster its recently created Integrated Farming Systems business, which combines soil and harvest data to improve seed selection and planting strategies.
Buying Climate Corp is “an important investment that’s going to be helpful with growth down the road,” Chris Shaw, a New York-based analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. who recommends buying the shares, said by phone today.
Excluding costs related to the acquisition, earnings in the fiscal year that began Sept. 1 will rise as much as 14 percent to $5 to $5.20 a share, Monsanto said today in a separate statement. The average of 22 estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for profit of $5.34.
Corn has fallen 42 percent in the past year amid forecasts for a record crop in the U.S., the world’s biggest grower. Modified corn seed is Monsanto’s largest business, and lower prices may lead to reduced planting for next year, Shaw said yesterday.
“They could face lower corn acres and a little more discounting on the seed side,” he said.
Since 2010, Monsanto’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant has targeted annual percentage profit increases in the “mid-teens” by raising prices on its newest modified seeds and expanding in Brazil and Argentina.
Higher prices for glyphosate, the generic form of the company’s Roundup herbicide, will keep climbing in 2014, adding about 30 cents to per-share earnings, Shaw said.
Monsanto’s fourth-quarter loss excluding one-time items was 47 cents a share, wider than the 43-cent average of 20 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
The period is typically Monsanto’s weakest quarter for earnings because farmers in North America and Europe are just beginning to harvest and haven’t begun purchasing seed and herbicide for spring planting.
–Editors: Simon Casey, Steven Frank