Monsanto buys data company for $930 million

by Monica Watrous
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ST. LOUIS — Monsanto Co. said its $930 million acquisition of San Francisco-based data company Climate Corp. is a “breakthrough addition” that will unlock new strategic opportunities for the company.

Monsanto executives discussed the acquisition during an Oct. 2 earnings call with financial analysts.

The Climate Corp., founded in 2006 by software engineers and data scientists, has developed an advanced technology platform that delivers hyper-local weather monitoring, agronomic data modeling and high-resolution weather simulations to help farmers manage risk. Monsanto said it will leverage the technology to complement its Integrated Farming Systems (I.F.S.) research platform, which provides farmers with field-by-field recommendations for maximizing yield and mitigating risk.

“The first wave of I.F.S. revolved around a single product, but with what we’ve just assembled we’re now talking about a true platform with tools that span from planting the seed to many of the key variables that growers deal with throughout the growing season,” said Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive officer of Monsanto. “Looking to the future, growers will need every available tool to produce more yield on the same acre. Strategically, we believe we are putting the best-in-class analytical capability on the largest global agricultural footprint. The combination with Climate Corp. unlocks new strategic opportunities and strengthens our growth rate over the next decade. It’s a significant use of cash but in one transaction we achieve an important leadership position that otherwise would require considerably more money and time to develop on our own.”

The addition bolsters Monsanto’s “strong business engine,” which delivered a third consecutive year of strong growth in fiscal 2013.

For the year ended Aug. 31, net income attributable to Monsanto was $2,482 million, equal to $4.65 per share on the common stock, up 21% from $2,045 million, or $3.83 per share, the previous year. For the fourth quarter, Monsanto reported a loss in attributable net income of $249 million, compared with a loss of $229 million during the same period of the prior year.

Net sales for the year were $14,861 million, compared with $13,504 million for fiscal 2012. During the quarter, the company had net sales of $2,202 million, up from $2,098 million during the prior-year period.

“After three straight years of strong performance we’re on track for continued growth,” Mr. Grant said. “If you set aside our acquisition for a moment, 2014 is a year where we’d be talking again about growth at our historical rates. That will still show through in our operational growth for the year.”
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